Lacy Landre

Deep pockets, full hearts support MAM at The Art Auction

The Milwaukee Art Museum held its Twelfth Benefit Art Auction on Saturday, a black tie event that featured incredible art. Photo gallery by Lacy Landre.

By - Nov 5th, 2012 03:45 pm
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Guests Mingle in the contemporary galleries for the final auction preview.

Saturday’s Twelfth Benefit Art Auction at the Milwaukee Art Museum drew collectors and supporters of the highest caliber. The Contemporary Art Society’s black tie event featured a sea of well-polished tuxes and attracted the most beautifully crafted couture rarely seen in Milwaukee. Hors d’oeuvres looked almost too good to eat, and wine was flowing to loosen up the tongues of potential bidders during the final preview’s cocktail hour. The art, too, was incredible.

This year’s meticulously vetted collection featured several pieces that found loving homes in the halls of Milwaukee’s fine art collectors during the silent auction. Several pieces had bids or immediately reached their “buy it now” price after the first gallery talk and preview on Oct. 30. Contrarily, plenty were still available for purchase, the majority of which came face-to-face with their new owners before the end of the night on Nov. 3.

Cafe Calatrava catering

Smaller works from popular 20th century artists such as Josef Albers, Anish Kapoor, Sol LeWitt, Kiki Smith, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenberg, Frank Gehry, Joan Miro, Roy Lichtenstein, Zevs, and Ed Ruscha added to the collection’s strength. You could have picked up a Picasso for around $10,000. The art spanned several mediums, featuring mostly paintings, prints, and photographs along with a few sculptures and mixed media pieces. Perhaps I’m biased, but I found some of the photography to be the most impressive and reasonably priced.

Francis Ford’s portrait of Richard Avedon

As much as I try to plan for it, it seems I always just miss exhibitions of Chicago’s newly discovered famous-after-she-died mid-century street photographer Vivian Maier. I was very pleased to see one of her prints for sale at the silent auction. Similarly, I recently attended Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt’s retrospective at the International Center for Photography in New York, and was happy to see his work appreciated in a different setting. I’ve got a soft spot for darkroom prints, so the silent auction definitely satiated me.

Other gorgeous black and white photos included artists such as Roger Parry, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Eliot Elisofon, Frank Paulin, Paul Strand, Joseph Szabo, Mitch Epstein, Nathan Lyons, Rudy Burckhardt, Alexandre Orion, Ron Galella, William Klein, and Barbara Morgan.  Milwaukee’s Portrait Society Gallery contributed Francis Ford’s stunning Richard Avedon portrait and two large prints by Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg, while color photos by Charles H. Traub, Lori Nix, and Slim Aarons were no less striking.

A full Lubar Auditorium waits patiently for the live auction to begin.

The live portion of The Art Auction filled the Lubar Auditorium with little standing room to spare. It opened with the sickeningly beautiful large-scale oil spill photo by Daniel Beltra, and featured 15 total artworks, allowing patient bidders to try their luck at acquiring high-demand pieces by Cindy Sherman, Marc Swanson, Andy Warhol, Jaume Plensa, Vera Lutter, and the event’s intricate featured sculpture by Tara Donovan. It ended almost as quickly as it started after chair and committee members were acknowledged, and although many of the live auction pieces sold for slightly under their appraisal value, the event still was able to raise a considerable mount of money for new acquisitions for the museum. A Thomas Struth print was the high bid for the evening.

Bidding was conducted by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers of Chicago. The Art Auction was presented by the Contemporary Art Society and MAM, and was sponsored by BMO Private Bank.

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