For the past few years, my friend shooey has gone to this super cool event called Visual Aid — it’s a charity art auction, proceeds of which go to artists with life-threatening illnesses. How it works is this.. admission is $35, and it’s a “flat price auction,” so each piece of art is $160 — and every person gets to pick 2 pieces they want at that price, first come first serve. Then, once everyone is done, they drop the price to $130.. people buy at that price.. then $100.. then $75.. and finally $50.. There’s 650 pieces of donated art to choose from, and I’d say about 500 people in attendance.
Since it’s first come first serve, in years past, people have started camping out as early as Thursday to get a good spot in line. This year, for one reason or other, they decided to outlaw camping, instead opening the gates at 5am on Saturday, and auctioned off the top 10 spots in “line” to raise some more money. Now, while I was not exactly *thrilled* at the thought of sleeping outside in SoMa Friday night, the whole “no camping” policy kind of put a slight damper on things for me — I mean, I haven’t camped out for anything since college, but yah.. the initial concept without being able to “buy” a spot in line was kind of cool..
Anyway, we toyed with the notion of bidding for one of the top spots in line, I mean.. what’s a few hundred bucks in exchange for a night of sleeping comfortably in bed. But, I had never been, so I didn’t know the quality of the art, and I think the whole auction thing was kinda pissing me off so I didn’t wanna support it.
So, instead, shooey and I met up at 3am on Saturday. Ouch. And, to make things even better, it was FREEZING and RAINING. Ok, FREEZING in the SF sense, in that 45 degrees in San Francisco feels more like 25 degrees anywhere else. It was cold. I was not happy. But, luckily, SomArts is like 5 blocks from my house, so after a few miserable hours of sitting in the rain freezing my arse off, I ran home and changed into my ridiculous winter coat and snow pants. And then.. we waited.
I slept for a bit, listened to two episodes of “This American Life,” and chatted with shooey to pass the time. We had originally thought to bring cards or something, but it was too cold and rainy to even attempt that.
That said, I think I’m pretty good at sitting and waiting. It was actually kind of nice to be slightly (ok, I still had my iphone) disconnected from the world for a few hours. The hours rolled away easily, and soon enough, we had our bid cards in hand, and then I was able to steal away home for a few hours before the auction. I was #16.
The doors to the gallery opened at 4pm, and we all piled in excitedly. Sure, there was free food and drink, but I barely remember eating or drinking anything for the first hour, I was so focused on finding the pieces of art I wanted. I was slightly disappointed to find that my favorite pieces from the art preview that Visual Aid had posted on their site were all in the live auction, and not the flat price auction… Aondrea Maynard’s Horizon and Gale Antokal’s Place 10 were both ridiculously beautiful in person. They went for $3,000 and $2,500 respectively during the live auction.
Anyway, I ran around like a mad man looking at the 650 pieces of art. At first glance, I only liked those two that were for live auction, and I was kind of annoyed. Grrr! I didn’t want anything! But, then I started looking a bit more, and more deliberately, I started seeing a few more things I liked. Phew.
My first choice was this one:
Bunny Existential, by Addie Shevlin
Shooey also liked that one, which was an issue — what happened if we both had overlapping choices on our list!? Out of the 650, I had 16 that I liked… out of that list, Shooey and I overlapped on 3.
Turns out, it was moot, cuz all of the ones we both liked ended up taken by the time it was our turn to choose. Bleh. Shooey was super bummed cuz the one that she really liked was this bee painting, and on the big board, it was still available — but, when she went to choose, it was gone, so she had to make a gametime decision and choose another.
Anyway, I got up to the desk, heart a-poundin’ and I was able to get my #2 and #3 choices of the show:
Betula (Red) by Phillip Hua 2009, Mixed Media
I really liked the whole idea of making art on newspaper, and somehow, the fact that we cover the newspaper industry a lot at work made me appreciate this pieces a bit more, who knows.
Sleeping Tanks by Manu Schnetzler, Photograph Mounted on Aluminum
Now, ideally, I really wanted a painting — I dunno, I LOVE photography, and I have a lot of it, so I wanted to balance out my collection a bit with some paintings.. But, I couldn’t resist the allure of this piece, which was mounted beautifully on aluminum. It’s a bit hard to photograph it, so here‘s a better image of the photo (but mine is cropped a bit).
After the excitement of choosing my works, I was able to eat a bit and drink a bit (really strong martinis, hello.) And then the live auction started.. Now, I’ve never been to an art auction of any sort, but this one, perhaps fueled by 2 hours of free drinking, was loud and raucous. People were jumping up and down and high fiving after they won their bids. I may have incited some high fiving. That said, man.. when thousands of dollars are flying around, it’s insane how ITCHY your head gets.
Head… so… itchy… need to scratch.. but don’t want to bid $5,000 for gummy bear painting…. crap crap crap crap.
But I didn’t end up buying anything by accident, although I was very, very tempted by that Aondrea Maynard painting — after checking out her site, I am coveting even more of her work now. Amongst my favorite artists are JMW Turner and Rothko, so her work kind of evokes that kind of feeling. Crap, maybe $3,000 would have been a good deal. Art is a good investment right?
In any case, the live auction concluded and they started dropping the prices on the remaining artworks. Mike Mcconnell had a drawing in the sale that I liked, and since his work was kind of lower on the wall, I was hoping that it would go unnoticed and I would be able to swoop in and grab it. I already have one of his paintings and would love to add some more to my collection.
I had my eye on this one photograph that I wanted when the prices started to drop. It was of a snowy country field, and reminiscent of some of my own photographs, so I really liked it. It was hung in a prominent eye-level spot, and one by one, the works around it kept getting bought… but I waited.. $130.. no.. wait wait.. nervously trying to look at it, but not pay it *too* much attention lest someone else notice that I was looking at it a lot and buy it.. $100… steady as she goes.. and finally, at $75, I bit the bullet and bought it.
Hill Road by Jonathan Taylor, c print ed. of 30, 2006.
We got home at around 10pm and surveyed our take.. Amongst the three of us, me, Shooey and Shissla:
17 hours + a few hundred bucks = 7 pieces of art.
Not bad. Now, just need to figure out where to hang it all.