Guy Bennett was on fire.
I’ll start the bidding at twenty-four hundred.
His sights shifted. Twenty-six. Twenty-eight for the gentleman in the back.
Another paddle shot up in the back of the room. Three thousand.
Another paddle, and another. Thirty-six. Another. Thirty-eight.
Paul Cadmus’ Teddo (pictured in top photo above Bennett) glinted in its frame in front of him. All eyes in the crowd turned from Bennett to a new contender, gingerly lifting his paddle as if to say gotcha.
Four thousand. More paddles. Five thousand. Fifty-five. Fifty-seven hundred.
Anyone else? Fifty-seven? Fifty-seven.
The gavel came down with a resounding bang and a round of thunderous applause.
Bennett’s appearance was one highlight of Something Blue, Artspace’s sold-out 2014 Gala Saturday evening, held between the organization’s well-known Orange Street gallery and the former Connecticut Bank & Trust building at the corner of Church and Crown streets.
An annual benefit for the organization, Something Blue brought together a smattering of New Haven’s elite, arts professionals, and artists for an evening celebrating the city’s vibrant—and continually growing—arts community.
The event was originally intended to feature the denouement of this season’s public-art controversy—what to do with a faux-historical plaque that street artist Believe In People had put up at the Yale University Art Gallery. The gallery had donated the piece to Artspace for its auction; the artist asked that the original not be auctioned. The artist contributed a replica for the auction—then asked that Artspace return rather than auction the replica (which it did). Click here, here and here for background stories on the controversy.
“The original is currently in our custody, though we do not own it,” Artspace Executive Director Helen Kauder reported. “We are serving as a conduit to find it a long-term home and had hoped to have a resolution before the auction, but the pressures of putting on the event didn’t allow enough time for all the conversations to take place.”
Co-chaired by Barbara Pearce and Matt Maleska, the gala began at Artspace’s main New Haven gallery, where attendees could bid on silent auction items such as Clymenza Hawkins Black with Blue (pictured), Jenny Krasner’s Boats of Kerula, India and many others. “We love Artspace,” the gallery’s next-door neighbor Neville Wisdom said.
“This is an anchor. The city and other universities should always support it. I hope there will be more of these,” local artist Robert Greenberg added.
For the first time that many at Artspace can remember, the gala completely sold out. For the organization, which supports fledgling artists and community arts initiatives like Matt Feiner’s First 100 Days in Office (pictured), that was very good news. “We feel like we have many strong pieces, which we’re very happy about,” said Cassandra Albinson, member of Artspace’s Board of Directors and curator at the Yale Center for British Art.
While looking at pieces up for auction, attendees also seemed to capture Artspace’s mission to “catalyze artistic activities; connect contemporary artists, audiences, and resources; and to enrich art experiences and activate art spaces.” “The event is great fun, and makes for a good Saturday night,” commented Jason Bischoff-Wurstle, director of photographic archives at the New Haven Museum.
As the silent auction closed around 6:45, attendees were ushered to the former Connecticut Bank & Trust building for the evening’s main event, a live auction of artwork by greats including Anni Albers, Lee Boroson, Paul Cadmus, Sharon Core, Titus Kaphar, Jerry Meyer and others.
Also auctioned off? Two enviable vacation packages, an artists’ getaway on the Amalfi Coast and skiing vacation in idyllic Vermont. Not shabby.
When Gene Beery finished his piece A Painting That Had to Be Realized No. 3 (pictured), this may well have been the venue he had in mind. Presided over by Christie’s-trained Guy Bennett, as charming as he was quick, the auction drew loud applause as the pieces, one by one, went off to new homes for bids ranging from $2,600 to over $15,000.
An expensive hobby or not, one thing was certain: attendees were enjoying themselves as they raised money for a tremendously worthy cause. Auctions are bizarre events where raised bids are greeted with frenetic but polite clapping and the occasional whoop or holler, but Saturday, this almost competitive buying practice meant a viable future for Artspace, and a robust fundraising model for not-for-profits like it. By the end of the evening, Artspace grossed over $100,000, with proceeds supporting its free exhibitions and year-round programs that, in Kauder’s words, “help incubate local talent.” In addition, nearly 50 artists will share in the proceeds from the sale of their work.
“On behalf of all of us at Artspace, we are overwhelmed by the generosity that was manifested at our gala. We are indebted to all the contributing artists, all the bidders, and all the businesses and firms who sponsored the event. We are about to turn 30 and an event like this, with so many people in attendance, gives us great hope for the years ahead,” Kauder said after the event.
“I’m thankful because events like this make it possible for me to live and work as an artist,” Artspace’s artist in residence, Catalina Barroso Luque, added. “Without things like this, nonprofits would not exist.”
The gala was followed by an after-party where attendees could partake in the festivities—including a raffle of works by Yale MFA graduates and Roy Lichtenstein-themed photo booth—for $25, a fraction of the gala price. Organized by Artspace’s junior committee, the event was intended to include artists, students and young members of the New Haven community who could not yet afford the $110 event tickets.
“This year, we started an after-party for more members of the community. We hit a little hiccup because it was Yale’s spring fling, but we’ve been very excited [about the gala] and we’re excited for the after-party,” said Sinclaire Marber, a member of the junior committee who has worked at Artspace since her freshman year at Yale University.
Marber and others at Artspace had reason to be excited. Despite the driving rain and cold outside, a spirit of creative celebration settled over the Trust building as chairs from the auction were cleared and R. Kelly’s remixed “Ignition” kept young arts enthusiasts dancing into the evening. Forget the near mudpit of Yalies swaying to Diplo down the street; this was where the real party was happening.