Written by Ananda Pellerin, CNN

Sotheby’s and Google have announced an online auction in support of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an NGO providing frontline support for refugees and other vulnerable communities affected by the Covid-19 epidemic.

The all-star auction brings together some of the world’s most prominent figures from across the arts, music, politics and business, who are offering their time and expertise to the highest bidders, in the form of virtual experiences that might just bring some joy during lockdown.

Grab a coffee or tea with Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright or Apollo 9 astronaut Russell “Rusty” Schweickart, or put your acting chops to the test with Sir Patrick Stewart, who is offering a lesson in Shakespearean performance.

Hillary Clinton Credit: Office of Hillary Rodham Clinton

British artist Mark Quinn is on hand for a virtual lesson in creating art, and indie band the Strokes are ready to chat music.

And, yes, Sting will meet you virtually from his home studio to offer singing advice, and to record one of his many hit songs together.

Also on the auction block are a coaching session from bestselling entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss, a one-to-one with comedy actor Sacha Baron Cohen, and a talk about interior style with decorator Jacques Grange, from the Paris apartment that once belonged to Nobel Prize-nominated author Colette.

Downton Abbey Credit: Courtesy of Carnival Films

Last but not least, one lucky Downton Abbey fan will win a virtual tour of Grade I listed Highclere Castle in Hampshire, where the show was filmed. You’ll join the stately home’s real-life residents, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, as well Downton creator Julian Fellowes and cast members Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern.

Sotheby’s CEO Charles F. Stewart said that the auction was a welcome way for the institution and its clients to get involved. “Many of our clients around the world have enquired about supporting Covid-19 relief efforts and, with the partnership of Google and so many leading figures who have pledged to support this unique auction event of virtual experiences, we are looking forward to supporting the efforts of the International Rescue Committee,” he said in a statement. More virtual experiences are expected to be added in time for the auction in early May.

The Strokes Credit: Jason McDonald

President and CEO of the IRC, former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband — whose time you can also bid for — pointed in a statement to the “double emergency” being experienced by displaced people around the world who are now contending with the pandemic. From the US to Syria, to the Greek Island of Moria, where 20,000 refugees are currently stranded with little chance of implementing social distancing measures, the IRC is providing medical, supplies and educational support. The Sotheby’s Covid-19 charity auction is taking place online from May 1-8, 2020.



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