The Nobel Peace Prize auctioned by Russian journalist Dmitry A. Muratov to help Ukrainian refugees sold Monday evening for $103.5 million to an anonymous buyer, erasing the record for a Nobel medal.
Proceeds from the auction will go to UNICEF to help Ukrainian children and their families displaced by Russia’s invasion of their country.
Mr. Muratov is the editor of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, whose publication was suspended in March in response to the Kremlin’s increasingly draconian press laws. In an interview with The New York Times last month, he said he was inspired by the auction of the prize he won last year by Danish physicist Niels Bohr, who sold his medal to help rescues. civilians in Finland after the Soviet invasion of that country in 1939. .
“We hope this will serve as an example for other people as a flash mob, for other people to auction off their valuable possessions, their inheritances, to help refugees, Ukrainian refugees all over the world,” he said. said Mr. Muratov in a speech from the stage before the start of the auction.
The previous auction record for a Nobel medal dates back to 2014, when the prize belonging to James Watson, who helped discover the double helix structure of DNA, sold for 4.1 million ($4.76 million, including the commission that goes to the Auction House).
Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale of Mr Muratov’s medal, sold five former Nobel Prize winners, including one awarded to Watson’s co-discoverer Francis Crick. This medal sold for $2.27 million in 2013.
Josh Benesh, chief strategy officer at Heritage Auctions, which won’t take a commission on the sale, said he was flabbergasted by the final price. Bidding had mostly moved up in increments of $100,000 or $200,000 when it suddenly shot up from $16.6 million to $103.5 million. Gasps filled the room when a Heritage Auctions employee handling the phone relayed the number.
“I don’t think the object mattered,” Mr Benesh said of the 23-karat gold Nobel medal being auctioned. “I think the object is a metaphor, it’s a symbol for something. It’s an opportunity to stand up and say, “This is a cause that makes sense and this is a problem that a donation can begin to solve.”
Mr Muratov is considered the dean of Russia’s struggling independent press, and Novaya Gazeta has been hailed since its founding in 1993 for its investigative journalism and campaigning for children with rare diseases and families in distress. His words at the auction resonated with some in the crowd.
Polina Buchak, a 24-year-old Ukrainian filmmaker and activist who lives in New York, said some of her family members are refugees. She hopes the auction will encourage the New York community and those around the world to continue their efforts to help Ukraine.
“We hear silence from everyone around us,” she said. “We get it. They’re tired, but so are we. It’s in a human being’s interest that this win comes soon.