Pret-a-Reporter

L.A. Art Organization Celebrates 10 Years With Auction Fundraiser

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Lauri Firstenberg and Viveca Paulin Ferrell

The art community, including artists Brian Bress and Mary Weatherford, gathered at the non-profit's new Hollywood space to toast its 10th anniversary with an auction of works by local talent.

Maybe you’ve driven through Culver City and thought, “My word, that billboard is weird,” or been on a commute and said, “Wait, why is there a puppet show on the I-10?” Or maybe you’ve just been to one of LA><ART’s challenging and exciting shows within their space. But that’s the kind of programming LA><ART does — wild, woolly, experimental pubic engagement.

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It’s hard to believe the organization is 10 years old already. Founded in 2005 in the then burgeoning La Cienega gallery row in Culver City by curator Lauri Firstenberg, LA><ART quickly established itself as force in the L.A. art world. This year, the non-profit alternative art space moved to Hollywood, again in the middle of the new hotbed of contemporary art activity. On Sunday night, it raised $800,000 in the LA><ART Benefit Presented by Distinct held in the new location and at their next-door neighbor, Siren Studios.

Guests milled about and bid on silent auction items for the first portion of the evening, which featured a tray pass of In-N-Out burgers and Green Truck paleo bowls. (This resulted in a lot of guests hiding in corners, scarfing down burgers and hoping not to drip on their freshly pressed suits and cocktail dresses. “This is why I don’t wear suits to these things,” a gallerist told me.)

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LA><ART board members Darren Romanelli and music exec Ron Handler hosted the evening. “I’m not bidding on anything tonight, mainly because I’m so tired,” said Romanelli, who had landed on a redeye from Tokyo earlier in the day, with a yawn. “Otherwise, I’d be all over some of these pieces.”

The event moved across the road to Siren where artist Mark Bradford introduced the honoree of the evening, 82-year-old artist John Outterbridge, a community activist and a leader in the California assemblage movement in the ’60s and ’70s. Firstenberg then presented artist duo Slanguage (Mario Ybarra Jr. and Karla Diaz) with a 10-year anniversary grant in honor of Noah Davis, a popular young L.A. artist who passed away from cancer in August.

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Viveca Paulin-Ferrell, the Swedish actress and wife of Will Ferrell who is on LA ><ART’s curator’s council, called the live auction. She livened up the night with a gag about the first lot being the podium. But bidding got serious over a piece by Los Angeles legend Charles Gaines, who had a solo show at The Hammer Museum this spring. Fred Savage and his wife Jennifer Stone looked on in awe as Paulin-Farrell hammered on the Gaines piece at $41,000. “Charles Gaines; we’ll have to remember that name,” Savage whispered.

Jeffrey and Catherine Soros nabbed a Glenn Ligon work for $7,000, while artist José Parla picked up a Brian Bress video for $14,000. Another bidding war took place on the final lot, a coveted Mary Weatherford painting, which sold to a mysterious bidder in the back of the room for $205,000.

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“Mary Weatherford saved the day,” said Handler.

“It was an exciting finale,” said Weatherford.

In all, the $800,000 haul was a huge boost for the non-profit.

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“We are so grateful for the tremendous support from the artist community,” said Firstenberg. “We were touched by our angel Mary Weatherford, honoring legendary artist and community organizer John Outterbridge with a beautiful introduction by Mark Bradford, and granting Slanguage in the memory of the late Noah Davis — a 10-year anniversary grant for $10,000 dollars, which was supported by the Marciano Family Foundation for emerging artists supporting the community.”

Firstenberg took a moment to reflect on the 10 years since she broke ground on the non-profit. “When I founded LA><ART in 2005, it was a flexible radical organization to support artistic and curatorial freedom,” she said. “A decade later, it is now an independent arts institution dedicated to the creation of a sustainable space for the next generation of artists and curators.”

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The event was presented by Distinct, a new social networking app, which produced a video featuring Slanguage’s win, directed by Lance Drake.

The entertainment industry was represented by LA><ART supporters Alan Hergott, David Hoberman, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Marc Foster, Peter Friedlander, Lisa Edelstein, Mara Brock Akil, Dana Delany, Julian Morris and celebrity chef Candace Nelson.

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Artists who came out to show their support included Brian Bress, Rosson Crow, Alex Israel, Mary Weatherford, Jonas Wood, Mark Bradford, Gary Baseman, Warren Neidich and Dwyer Kilcollin.

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