Meet the innovators creating a link between fundraising and art

Meet the innovators creating a link between fundraising and art – words Alexa Wang

Some of the most significant names in contemporary art have created works for project MULTICOLOUR, using pencils and crayons salvaged from the Calais Jungle refugee camp, all works will go up for auction at Phillips, with all proceeds going to support those most affected by the crisis.

arts fundingPhoto by Orlando Gili

In October 2016, Simon Butler had just returned from Calais with a clutch of pencils and crayons he had collected from the site of the old school in the Jungle. Irrevocably changed by “seeing a site where 10,000 people had lived reduced to dirt”, he describes it as the most poignant experience of his life.

Meanwhile, Ian and Joe Syer of, had already recognised the opportunity that their business could play in helping raise awareness and funds to make an impact in helping to combat the sheer scale of the Syrian refugee crisis. As Ian watched reports come in, and saw the desperation that people were facing, he felt moved to start doing some research. “I’d come up with an idea called ‘St-Art’”, explains Ian, “and I wanted to build a foundation that would utilise our contacts and experience in the industry to ask artists to donate work that would sell to raise money to support these causes.”

After further investigation Ian came across Simon, who was already achieving much of what Ian wanted to achieve. Moreover,, and not only that, Simon had already circumnavigated a lot of the red tape and legislation that Ian had come across, therefore “rather than trying to innovate, it seemed logical to support the cause”, recalls Ian.


Reaching the giants of the contemporary art world and getting them to react and participate in any idea is a tall order. The MULTICOLOUR concept was creative and innovative enough to spark immediate interest, with Anish Kapoor, the Connor Brothers, Sean Scully, Edmund De Waal and Idris Khan among others instantly engaging with the concept and wanting to create and donate work to the cause. Founding member of the Young British Artists’ group, Michael Craig-Martin RA, describes the campaign as a “a cause of exceptional worthiness”; while Sara Shamma’s compelling work, Alien: Two Heads, is almost a poster child for the initiative. She explains her motivations: “These crayons were used by children at Calais Jungle camp to draw their dreams on paper, I am happy to reuse them to make at least some of these dreams come true”. 

There is no doubt that the project is a collaborative reaction from the art world, to bring attention to the true depth of what is an on-going crisis which is often lost in sporadic reporting on the situation:

“Project Multicolour is very poignant, there is something so beautiful that these disregarded pencils are being used to aid the very people that once held them”, says Ian, “Simon has been relentless in his pursuit of the cause and has a passion that is infectious, it’s meant some of the biggest names in the art world have pledged involvement that will ensure this is a success.” 

Multicolour isn’t the first of Migrate Art’s projects’ to hit home with both artist and art buyer, their last project saw an original Julian Opie, Bobby & Natalie.1, sell for £47,500 at a Christie’s auction. Simon explains, “working with a number of artists, among them Antony Gormley and Conor Harrington we have already raised just under £100,000, which has gone to help projects across three continents, and directly impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people.”

The star-studded list of artists involved in Multicolour is testament to the idea, and the determination of its founder. “I have been amazed at the generosity of the art community” says Simon, “all of the artists we have worked with have given their time to our project simply because they want to make a positive change in the world.”

Anna Jones, founder of Refuaid – one of the four charities’ Migrate Art supports  -was recently included in Forbes list of this year’s under 30s to watch. The charity offers a three-pronged approach to easing forced migration of refugees, focusing on access to employment, language development and aiding entrance to higher education. Migrate Art supports three further charities: The Lotus Flower, the Worldwide Tribe, and Refugee Community Kitchen. Migrate Art will keep 10% of all funds raised to reinvest into fundraising projects of the future, with the remaining 90% going directly to its partner charities.

Multicolour brings light to the ongoing struggles faced by the most vulnerable in our world in a compelling way. The team at Migrate Art are nurturing a charity with both a heart and a face, making the whole concept of art for a cause that much more powerful.   

The Multicolour project will preview at the Cork Street Galleries 19-31 March, and the auction is at Philips in Berkeley Square on April 11. Find out more and register for the event at 

Credits for above images:

Masters of Money and Mirrors (Study)

81.1 X 122.2 CM

Alien: Two Heads


150 X 75 CM



42 X 29.7 CM 


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