For most arts organizations fundraising "season" is yearlong, with activity heightened by major events in the spring and fall. More often than not, these events are auctions. Traditionally, fundraising auctions meant organizations would solicit donations in order to sell objects to the highest bidder and retain the proceeds. Artists were frequently excluded from the events, unless they purchased tickets -- or were invited in after the food had been served. (I once saw an artist nibble on leftover lettuce garnish scattered on an otherwise empty buffet.) In recent years, many arts organizations have revamped the traditional auction model, making it more equitable for the artists' communities they serve and better reflections of their organizational values.
Several Bay Area arts organizations will host crucial fundraisers this month. It is noteworthy that many organizations feature overlapping lists of participating artists: non-profit arts organizations form the bedrock of the Bay Area arts scene and many artists generously give back so that still more artists can move ahead. The Lab, Headlands Center for the Arts, and Southern Exposure have all reinvented the fundraiser, largely by focusing on inclusivity. Here is how I would spend, spend, spend to support art, if money was no object.
June 1, 2013, 6:30pm
Historically, the Lab has been one of San Francisco's premiere alternative spaces -- artists such as Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, Alicia McCarthy, and Xylor Jane showed there early on. In recent years, the number of experimental spaces has dwindled dramatically, making the Lab's sustainability all the more critical. This summer the Lab is renovating its gallery, as well as building artists' studios in the space next door; of the ten studios being built one will be reserved for the artist-in-residence program. New programming will be announced in the fall, to coincide with the organization's 30th anniversary.
"We are trying to change the auction model," explained board president Jesse Houlding, "to give artists something substantial in exchange for their involvement." The Lab published two suites of limited editions, one box set, and a series of prints available for individual sale; in exchange participating artists receive a complete suite of works by their esteemed peers. This gesture elevates the intentions of the auction through reciprocity.
Matt Borruso, Tropical / Pastoral, 2010
The limited edition box set, available in an edition of five, promises to make the most discerning collector's heart skip a beat -- it features works by a righteous list of art stars including Anthony Discenza, Desirée Holman, Chris Johanson, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, Ruby Neri, Trevor Paglen, and Clare Rojas, in a wooden box designed by Andrew Berg. Individual prints by Randy Colosky, Mary Anne Kluth and Zachary Royer Scholz, among others, are also on offer, along with works by the likes of Matt Borruso, Ala Ebtekar, and Kota Ezawa during the live auction. For tickets and more information visit thelab.org or their online auction site paddle8.com/auction.thelab.
Headlands Center for the Arts
Online May 17 through June 4, 2013, live auction June 5, 6:30pm
Headlands Center for the Arts is an extraordinary artist residency program located on the coast in the Marin Headlands. Nearly 1,000 highly acclaimed artists from all disciplines have spent time at the Headlands, often during formative periods of their careers, including Sapphire and Walter Kitundu, among others. The upcoming auction is "mission driven" and directly supports artists through sales opportunities. Participating artists may retain up to 50% of the sales price for their work, though artists often defer their percentage to further support Headlands' programs. Artists are also given a pair of tickets to the VIP preview event.
Pablo Guardiola, Caribe Color II, 2012
My pick of the artworks, featured in the online auction to whet appetites, is numerous including works by Val Britton, Jedediah Caesar, Christina Empedocles, Pablo Guardiola, Todd Hido, Desirée Holman, Amy Franceschini, and Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, Eve Sussman, and Andy Vogt. To that end, I also openly covet some of the "experiences" on offer, including the LA Art Tour and a private party for ten at Aesop's beautiful flagship store, featuring Recchiuti chocolates selected by Michael Recchiuti, wine pairings and spa treats. For tickets and more information visit headlands.org or paddle8.com/auctions/headlands.
June 14, 2013, 6-11pm
Southern Exposure is one of the most vital artist-driven organizations in San Francisco, catering to a wide reaching number of artists working at the grassroots level. It is also perhaps the most openhanded: it has created open source models of many of its programs so that other organizations around the country may follow suit, including this annual fundraiser. By formulating equitable sustainability and sharing ideas, Southern Exposure has supported artists in numerous communities around the country. The Monster Drawing Rally is a live, generative event featuring hundreds of artists. At each event artists make and sell work on site over the course of the evening, at the very accessible price of $60 each. It is one of the most popular events of the year and it can be quite competitive -- if you want work by a certain artist, you'd better be ready -- but it is also lively and a fun way to raise vital funds for Southern Exposure's year-long programs, while offering a glimpse of the creative process in real time.
My picks include Val Britton, John Casey, Michael Hall, Mary Anne Kluth, Sam Lopes, Masako Miki, Maria Porges, Genevieve Quick, Zachary Royer Scholz, Allison Smith, Lorna Stevens, and Bruce Tomb. And then, of course, there is the chance for new discoveries. Be prepared to sprint. For tickets and more information visit soex.org.