Sunday, July 31, 2005

"Bashville" art auction

Henry Art Gallery
Seattle, WA

Throwing an art auction fundraiser is a harrowing affair. Besides the sponsorships, staffing, and art wrangling, you need to get people happy and liquored up so they spend freely, but not so liquored up that they forget what they've promised to purchase and stumble out at the end of the evening clinging to the remaining shards of their dignity. Fortunately, the many volunteers at the Henry are only pouring teeny glasses of wine and stuffing people full of food all night.

Bashville is the 2005 incarnation of the annual fundraiser for this modern art gallery. Attendees are established and budding art lovers, hipsters who know that even without the art this would be a kick-ass party, and denizens of the art community who will do whatever it takes to make sure this gallery sticks around.

People look just splendid tonight. Since it is a hootenanny, there are large numbers of cowboy hats, boots, rhinestones, a few chaps, and a couple of crinolines. Those not in costume are still having fun, but they look tragically normal. Yours truly sports a slightly more demure Daisy Duke outfit, my friend wears a fantastic Japanese Western blouse, and Chip goes for the Gay Cowboy look. (This is on purpose, right Chip?)

We note Hickey Boy first - a dweebish looking guy not in costume but for this HUGE hickey on his neck as if to proclaim "SEE?? A GIRL LIKES ME." And I chat for a while with John the Builder. "Builder" is a wonderfully vague title that could range from construction worker to real estate mogul. At the beginning of the night he has like 15 art pieces jotted down with the intention of filling up the empty walls of his recently remodeled house, but in the end he gets squeamish and indecisive and buys nothing. I figure the hotel he's "building" downtown is going better than that.

The process of purchasing the art is orderly, clever and HIGHLY DRAMATIC. A few minutes before the sale starts, everyone clamors for a wooden nickel that has a number on it. We arrange ourselves according to the number we've drawn. Then one at a time people walk down the row of art and point out which one or two pieces they want. Simple, right? I draw number 11 (out of 75) which is pretty good, but I am FREAKING OUT because I'm certain that one of the 10 people in front of me will choose the piece I want as clearly it is the BEST PIECE. I go into full art palpitations and actually start YELLING at people not to select the piece I want, as if they have any idea which one that would be. Astonishingly, I get the piece. I've never been so happy to spend 300 bucks in my whole life.

Later in the evening my friend scores two pieces that she wants, right in front of a couple who were about to select the EXACT SAME TWO PIECES. Are you COMPREHENDING the drama?

Stress notwithstanding, it's a happy and supportive crowd ("You got the forest box? I love the box!" "You got the pod thing? You are so lucky!"). Like audiences at the old fart rocker shows I love so much, this crowd really feels like a family--a cultural continuum of the younger people we once were, the people we are today, and the older folks that we're on our way to becoming. Cowboy hats off to the Henry. This event rocked.

1 Comments:

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