Last week, a painting by Los Angeles painter Mark Grotjahn sold for an astounding $6.5 million at Leonardo DiCaprio’s charity auction at Christie’s in New York. The auction, which had artists (and hence their galleries) from around the world donating their works, was staged to raise funds for conservation of endangered species through the DiCaprio Foundation. Auctions for charity have been some of the biggest art events of the spring – CAA’s Angel Art auction recently raised $1.1 million for Project Angel Food’s work bringing meals to homebound people fighting AIDS, cancer and other diseases -- and on Sunday, an art-hungry crowd flocked to Venice, Calif., to bid on works and help improve the life of that homeless person just passed on Abbot Kinney Blvd. The silent auction portion of the event raised over $300,000.
The 2013 Venice Art Walk and Auction was the 34th installment of this annual fund-raiser. The event, which featured exclusive art studio and architecture tours with meet-the-artist opportunities, is always popular due to the work of the beneficiary Venice Family Clinic, but adding to the excitement was the event’s location at Google’s Main Street offices. This year’s event celebrated artists Larry Bell and John Van Hamersveld. Both artists have a deep connection to the Venice art community. Bell is a contemporary American artist and sculptor whose 40 years of work can be found in the collections of many of the world’s top art aficionados, public spaces, major museums and cultural institutions, including MoMA, MOCA, the Whitney and the Guggenheim. Bell seemed fairly nonplussed about the goings-on, but spoke very passionately about the work of the clinic and said simply of his years of support of this event, “It’s the least I can do.”
Van Hamersveld is a renowned graphic designer, illustrator and artist perhaps best known for creating the brilliant and instantly iconic image for The Endless Summer, the seminal 1966 surf movie by Bruce Brown. Van Hamersveld created the signature imagery and logo for the 2013 Venice Art Walk and Auction. Scanning the garden atrium as the crowd starting streaming in, Hamersveld reflected on his years of involvement with this art community: “If you were there then, then you’re here. You know all these people. You get to have this interaction with these artists who are always clever, sort of neurotic, reclusive -- you get to see their kind of secrets, what they do.”
Steven Tyler’s daughter Mia Tyler was at the event Sunday. She donated a photograph entitled The Red Queen to the silent auction. Other major contemporary artists donating to the silent auction included Chuck Arnoldi, Billy Al Bengston, DJ Hall, Marc Fichou and Ed Ruscha. Arnoldi strolled over from his studio across the street to support the event and “to see what the Google thing is.” Looking back, he said, “This thing has gotten so huge -- it has so much momentum. It’s kind of overwhelming.”
Artist Kelly Berg was live painting at the event. When asked who she would most like to see walk in and buy her work, Berg replied: “Madonna. I am inspired by music. You know, actually David Bowie would be my top choice.”
One of the biggest celebrities at the Art Walk and Auction this year hasn’t even been born yet. Downtown screen-print operation Intellectual Property Prints was selling prints of Daniel Edwards’ Special K (Fetal Portrait of Baby Kimye). The print depicts a sculpture imagining the future child of Kanye and Kim; it will be unveiled on the same day the child is born. Other vendors and an avenue of food trucks were available to the auction-goers behind the Google building.
The Venice Family Clinic provides care to more than 24,000 low-income, uninsured and homeless individuals in the community. It is the largest free medical clinic in the country, and there are seven locations on L.A.’s Westside in the Venice Beach/Santa Monica/Culver City areas. According to the clinic’s CEO and executive director Liz Forer, the annual art event “does two things. It brings the artists and the community together to support Venice Family Clinic, and it also exposes all of L.A. to Venice and the artists of Venice. It generates $650,000 for the clinic and is a major boost to the businesses of Venice that day.” Forer recalled the year that Tobey Maguire volunteered. “No one recognized him because he was wearing a hat and he was just picking up and moving tables at the end. Someone said, ‘Hey -- that’s Spiderman,’ but he just kept helping clean up like any other volunteer.”