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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

Eye for an eye: Javier Bardem iris NFT to be sold for sight-saving charity

A composite photo of a pale brown iris and a still of the actor Javier Bardem in his Oscar-winning role
Bardem’s iris, left, and the actor as Anton Chigurh in the Coen brothers’ 2007 film No Country for Old Men. Photograph: Ojos del Mundo/Alamy

An eye for an eye, or in this case, help for thousands of eyes in exchange for the image of one as a closeup of Javier Bardem’s iris is auctioned for an organisation that restores sight to people in the developing world.

“Being able to see, to hear, to touch, to feel: these are things that we don’t really appreciate until we lose them,” said the Oscar-winning actor. “Regaining access to everything you feel through seeing, which has such an impact on our emotions and sensibility, is an emotional and spiritual transformation.”

He said that is why he has donated the striking image to Ojos del Mundo (Eyes of the World), which will auction the photograph as part of a new fundraising campaign, Iris of the World.

Ojos del Mundo was founded in Barcelona in 2001 and is dedicated to treating avoidable blindness – such as cataracts – through direct intervention and by training local people to continue the work, with projects treating Saharawis in refugee camps in Algeria, as well as in Mali, Bolivia and Mozambique.

In the past 20 years, it has restored the sight of more than 37,000 people and trained 13,000 Indigenous specialists.

The image will be sold as a unique, digital non-fungible token (NFT) and a photographic print authenticated by the actor.

At the launch of the campaign, Anna Barba, director of Ojos del Mundo, said that as well as raising funds, the foundation wanted to raise awareness of avoidable blindness, adding that 90% of visually impaired people live in the world’s poorest regions, and 55% are women.

“Javier has been very generous in sharing with us something as personal and exclusive as his iris. It’s a mark of identity that has borne witness to special moments that can now become a part of anyone who bids for this inspiring and original photograph. Javier’s eyes will open other eyes.”

According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, 161 million people suffer from uncorrected sight, of whom 100 million have operable cataracts. Another 510 million are shortsighted.

Ojos del Mundo was reluctant to speculate about how much they hoped the auction might raise but said that even the reserve price of €9,000 (£7,850) would pay for 1,300 eye tests; €30,000 would fund four years of training for an ophthalmologist; and €50,000 would meet the cost of 715 cataract operations.

Bardem, 53, rose to fame in the 1992 film Jamón Jamón, in which he played opposite a teenage Penélope Cruz.

The Spanish actor won an Oscar for best supporting actor in the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men and went on to play Raoul Silva, the villain of the James Bond film Skyfall.

He married his fellow Oscar-winner Cruz in 2010 and the couple have supported numerous charitable causes, donating money to help rebuild homes after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 as well as raising funds for the Open Arms project, which rescues people crossing the Mediterranean.

Ojos del Mundo said they hoped to repeat the auction if this one was a success and that they were looking for an international sporting figure as their next donor.

The auction will take place online at from midday CET/BST on 29 September until 6pm on 6 October.

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