On the eve of an historic national election (with a crumbling economy as the backdrop) a healthy slice of the artworld gathered to raise money for the Coalition for the Homeless. Attending the event was a way to pay tribute to Robert Rauschenberg, to celebrate the generosity of artists and galleries who have contributed artworks to be auctioned, and to enjoy the theatre of the evening. It is a well-known draw that artwork may be bought at below market prices at benefit art auctions and this year's ARTWALK NY was no exception. A list of the donating artists may be found on the Coalition's website.
Richard Gere and his wife, Carey Lowell, graciously hosted the evening's tribute and live auction. Honored guest Alec Baldwin joined by Gere, applied his talent and wit to encourage the audience to buy art from the silent auction and bid higher during the live auction. Baldwin compared bidding in this auction to going to see a movie at a multiplex theater. There are plenty of movies to choose from; you may go initially to see one movie, but if its sold out you go to see another. If the artwork you want sells, find another to buy. He wryly suggested that Richard Gere's recent movie, "Nights in Rodanthe", would be the second choice movie. (Let the games begin!)
On a more sincere note, another honored guest, artist Chuck Close, spoke of Rauschenberg from his own student days. Close's tribute was based on personal friendship and professional admiration. Other members of Rauschenberg's personal circle added to the evening's tribute to this seminal artist. Coalition Executive Director Mary Brosnahan underscored the current economic reality as a reason to give even more to the Coalition for the Homeless and its proven programs. The need for the Coalition's services is only going to increase the the coming year.
Advance ticket sales were reported as matching last year's high levels, and tickets were bought at the door as well. The venue, The Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 West 18th Street, filled quickly. Attendees were equal portions of artists and art aficionados, professionals, paparazzi, beautiful people, and young beautiful people. The Coalitions new Junior Committee Co-Chair, Bettina Prentice, herself picture perfect, was very successful at bringing in young collectors to the event.
The Metropolitan Pavilion is a great place for this art party. The event is run by Scenic, headed by Craig Hensala and Simon Watson with support from the Coalition's Kim McCall (in high heels after running the New York City Marathon the day before!), Rachel Edelman, and many other Coalition members. The Pavilion was split into two large, airy spaces: one for the silent auction art exhibition, complete with open bars, hearty fare, passed hors d'oeuvres, and a DJ; the other a stage and reserved seating for the live auction. The installation of the silent auction artwork was intelligent and expert. Given that the works are up just for the evening, the placement of the works, including the lighting was lovely.
During the introductory speeches and tributes before the live auction, however, as well as during the live auction itself, the acoustics were compromised. It seems in past years, the party in the silent auction section of the hall shut down to watch the live auction show. The ongoing noise from the party seemed to make the live auction less special and harder for Baldwin, Gere and the auctioneer, a charming Christopher Gaillard, to urge on the bidding. Bidders responded notably to pieces by Chuck Close,Wade Guyton, Jenny Holzer, Dennis Oppenheim, Jack Pierson, Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha. Curiously, while not identical, two artworks, one by Jeff Koons and the other by Pat Steir, were very similar to last year's donated works.
Bidding at the silent auction was brisk, several pieces inspired many bidders including a Louise Bourgeois print and a print made collaboratively by Anne Collier & Matthew Higgs titled, "I Married an Artist". (My husband, Jeff Pundyk, and Alec Baldwin sparred several rounds on the bidding sheet for this piece until Baldwin tripled his bid.) I'll take this opportunity to say I'm grateful to report that the piece I donated sold.
This was the 14th annual ARTWALK NY, now a proven event that supports the tireless efforts of Mary Brosnahan and the Coalition for the Homeless. I have skimped here a bit on details of the candid remarks and unplanned antics: I encourage you to attend next your to see for yourself. It is an entertaining party and a great opportunity for art collectors. In the meantime, get involved with the Coalition, make a contribution of your money or time or both.