Everybody in the LA art world knows about the Museum of Contemporary Art's recent financial turmoil: the museum overspent its budget for the past few years until last fall it finally arrived at the brink of collapse before billionaire Eli Broad stepped in with a $30 million stop-gap pledge. So it was with keen interest that I went downtown the other night to preview the annual fundraiser, MOCA FRESH, in which artists donate artworks for a silent auction to benefit the museum.
It's an impressive show this year, and the sale offerings subtly telegraphed the art world's deep concern about MOCA's fate and artists' willingness to pitch in.
Glancing at the bid sheet for Schnitger's work, the name of the first bidder jumped out at me: MOCA chief curator Paul Schimmel, who offered $6,000. That got me to thinking that if Schimmel, one of the LA art world's most esteemed curators, has endorsed Schnitger's work, shouldn't any savvy collector swoop to buy it based on his imprimatur alone? I suddenly wondered if could I glean any more tips from the art professionals -- curators and gallery owners -- in the room. It wasn't hard: many were on hand to give advice to clients and donors, trying to drum up enthusiasm among potential bidders. I eavesdropped.
I asked a few other art folk for their best recommendations. A young MoCA curator also singled out the Gober -- "If I had $10,000 I would get it" -- and then sang the praises of a quirky Martin Kippenberger poster as he translated the German text, which commemorated the artist's "quarter-century" birthday. Yet another curator mentioned that Piero Golia -- whose 12-inch lacquer LP in a plain paper sleeve had an opening bid of $1000 -- had just been written about in The New York Times.
Lauri Firstenberg, director of the non-profit arts space LAX Art, said she "worshipped" a Dan Bayles painting, and then she steered me across the room to a Drew Heitzler print (below). I went over to take a closer look.
The MOCA FRESH party takes place tomorrow night (Saturday, May 9) at the Geffen Contemporary space. Click HERE for more information.