Charity WATERisLIFE performs an “art heist for good” by stealing JR’s famous installation in Kenya

Advertising agency Deutsch in New York has devised an eye-catching way of raising money for charity WATERisLIFE, by removing artist JR’s photographic work from Kibera in Kenya and selling it at auction to raise money for the community.

The work at the Kibera slum forms part of a series of installations by JR titled Women Are Heroes. Put in place in 2008, it features photographs of women who lived in the area blown up to huge proportions and was originally displayed across 2000m² of rooftops. The artwork was created in a vinyl waterproof material though this had deteriorated over the years, which is what sparked the idea for WATERisLIFE to ‘liberate’ the images, auctioning them to make money for items sorely needed in Kibera, including a 5,000 gallon per day water filter and a permanent community hand-washing station.

Women Are Heroes as it originally appeared in Kibera
Women Are Heroes as it originally appeared in Kibera
Recent photograph showing the deterioration of the installation
Recent photograph showing the deterioration of the installation

The first section of the artwork has already sold at Julien’s Auction House in Beverly Hills for $10,000 and Deutsch estimates that the remaining pieces will sell for between $20,000-$40,000. This money will all go to fund projects specifically in Kibera.

“All of the money we raise from this project will go directly back to Kibera, which is what we do with with all of our projects,” says Menno Kluin, ECD and Head of art & design at Deutsch. “The funds raised go back to the area featured, which tends to give people an extra incentive to donate.”

Members of the community at Kibera
Members of the community at Kibera
The installation of the new corrugated metal roofs funded by the project
The installation of the new corrugated metal roofs funded by the project

While it may be an unconventional approach, Kluin explains that the community got behind WATERisLIFE’s idea and is already receiving support from the charity. “Of course they were skeptical at first,” he says, “but the community has already started receiving help from WATERisLIFE. The charity has been replacing the rooftops we took with proper, corrugated metal ones that will protect them from rain, giving out water filters and installing hand-washing stations.”

The charity also plans to implement more projects in the community in the coming months including installing the afore-mentioned water filter and repairing water distribution points around Kibera.

As to what JR makes of it all though, that remains to be seen. “JR has no involvement in this project,” says Kluin. “We tried to reach out on several occasions, but have not yet heard back.”

Agency: Deutsch New York
CCO: Kerry Keenan
ECD: Menno Kluin
Creative directors: Sam Shepherd, Frank Cartagena, Julia Neumann
Creatives: Brittany Rivera, Katrina Mustakas, Kevin Meagher
Director of photography: Neil DaCosta
Design director: Juan Carlos Pagan
Designer: Brian Gartside

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