Friday, June 20, 2008

HCA 08 Auction

The 2008 Headlands Center for the Arts auction was Anu's second, last, and best auction for that organization. Thanks to her hard work, and that of her colleagues, it was quite a bit more successful than their best estimates had projected. Attendance was high, the food was excellent, and the atmosphere was lively.

Ed Gilbert and Anu

Having attended last year's auction as well, I can definitely say this one had better artworks on offer and a more energetic mood amongst the attendees. Even in the current economic climate, the compelling work resulted in a very high percentage of works selling compared to previous HCA auctions.

Owen Seitel introduces the live auction

A number of folks were there that I am friendly with (besides the Headlands Staff), including artists Fred Loomis and David Maisel; curators and gallerists Kimberly Johansson, Svea Vezzone, Jennifer McCabe, and Maria del Carmen CarriĆ³n; Lawrence Lohr and Emily from the excellent winery J. Lohr; and Headlands trustees Ed Gilbert and Owen Seitel.

Lawrence and Emily

Anu and Svea


Jennifer and Maria Del Carmen

As I did last year, I purchased some work, hoping to support Anu and her colleagues in their endeavors. She had done a great job with programming, and I was very excited to meet and continue to get to know past and future AIRs under her tenure such as pre-Headlands friends Phillip Robertson and Shahzad Ismaily, as well as David Maisel, Fred Loomis, Zak Smith, Ken Goldberg, Will Oldham, Mads Lynnerup, Ant Farm, NPR, and many others.

I managed to win three very nice works in the silent auction:

Kathy Aoki - "Right on Schedule"

Kathy Aoki's work, consisting of cutesy Japanese pop culture images in sometimes gritty, everyday scenes, is especially popular here in the San Francisco Bay Area. My nerdy love of Japanese pop culture and construction machinery made this piece quite a natural fit for me.

Lead Pencil Studio - An Intimate Momentum

Lead Pencil Studio are nationally renowned architects and artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo. They are West Coast favorites, and there was a lot of twitter amongst some buyers after the closing of the silent auctions that they hadn't seen this work (hello, it's pretty hard to miss) and would have bid it up higher if they had. I found the intertwining of architectural elements with romantic figures to be oddly compelling, and enjoyed the piece on its own merits.

Seher Shah - Black Star Project (Cube 18)

I had been completely unfamiliar with Seher Shah's work prior to the auction, but Anu had seen her work at Miami Basel. Fortunately, Anu got a catalog of Shah's work at the Miami Basel show, because it is all quite excellent and I wouldn't have gotten to see it at all otherwise. Her use of either monochrome or muted color palettes, and intricate geometric detailing, often combined with interesting figurative elements, especially appeals to me. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this piece was my biggest "score" of the auction in terms of international reputation, and upon further researching her work I must say I am quite impressed with it. I'm glad to own one of her pieces.


What I didn't buy this year was a piece by my friend Fred Loomis -- I figured it was good to let someone else have a chance this time. That, and many other wonderful works that were featured this year went home with others, including a stunning piece by Matthew Cusick that I would have loved to have, but couldn't.

Matthew Cusick -- The Course of Empire (Mixmaster II)

However, this tale of a joyful, successful night ends tragically. Two business days after the most successful auction in the organization's history, Headlands Center for the Arts laid-off the artistic organizer of the event -- their Program Director, my lovely wife Anu. Her hard work, extensive connections, and great eye all contributed substantially to making this auction quite excellent (an obvious fact to anyone who had attended previous auctions, such as last year's, which happened before she had really settled-in to the job). Despite the better-than-expected returns on the auction, and an excellent (and financially net positive) programming season, financial reasons were cited for her termination. Apparently HCA is in direr financial straits than any of us had figured.

It is a shame that she will no longer be with the organization. The programming and artist roster she brought to HCA certainly piqued my interest in an institution I'd previously ignored, and I am rather difficult to please artistically. (You may think I'm biased, and to some extent I am. But Anu and I rely on each other for honest critique, so we don't cut any slack with regards to whether or not we think the other's creative efforts are engaging or not.) However, she will continue to curate, write, and otherwise engage the Bay Area (and national, and international) arts community so you'll continue to be able to attend her shows and programs -- only you'll have to do so at some other place(s).