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This week sees the 10th anniversary of the successful, unusual and fun fundraiser Incognito at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The annual event, set to take place this Saturday, centers on an auction of over 700 works by 500 artists who donate their work for the benefit of the museum. The artists’ names are not attached to their works, so the buyers are selecting the art for its own merit and might just purchase a piece by a recognized artist. Celebrated creative geniuses such as Barbara Kruger, John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha have participated over the years and they seem to relish the opportunity to fool collectors in search of their pieces.
A number of film and television personalities came out Wednesday night for the museum’s auction preview and dinner, dubbed Precognito. Among the attendees were Tyra Banks, Craig and Megan Ferguson, Emmy Rossum, artists Gajin Fujita, Mark Bradford, Henry Taylor and Barbara Kruger, along with museum director Elsa Longhauser and Incognito event chair Joy Simmons and Precognito chairs Bruce Adlhoch and Shula Nazarian.
Shameless star Emmy Rossum, who has attended as a collector for at least three years, was eagerly scanning the dense walls of small pictures. “I come from an art family – my mom is a photographer and so I purchase a lot of art – black-and-white photography specifically – from galleries in New York and Los Angeles,” Rossum told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m always looking for stuff to adorn walls in my house. The work I get here every year goes onto one wall, so I am sort of assembling a little Incognito wall.”
Asked about how visual art influences her creative work, Rossum expressed: “I feel like what I respond to at that time mirrors what I’m feeling or what art I’m working on. If I’m working on a more violent piece, I’m attracted to things with brighter colors. But if I’m on hiatus or being more reflective, I usually gravitate to softer colors or more black and white, so it all depends.” Rossum’s next movie, You’re Not You, with Hillary Swank, will hit theaters in September.
Photographer and filmmaker Matthew Ralston got a big kick out of the preview event on Wednesday night. “I think it’s really fun. And I think the most clever, or the most humorous people, imitated the style of other artists to fool the eye and that is part of the fun of the evening,” said Ralston. “And I have found it to be very lively and visually stimulating and I want loads of things here. It’s like eye candy.” Ralston spoke about his first fine art exhibition with Diane Rosenstein (also present at the event) coming up in June. “It’s photographic, but its not celebrity work. It’s a conceptual piece. The project is about ventriloquist dummies – it’s five years in the making to get to the show.”
SMMOA supporter and gallerist Sam Freeman said that the event is such a game that people even playfully spark rumors of which artworks belong to which big artists. “Oh, all the time. You have to whisper behind somebody – Oh, that’s the Ruscha,” joked Freeman. As for what makes the event special, Freeman said: “It’s overload… And that’s what’s fun. You find things that stand out for something other than what you recognize it for. It’s more of a personal connection.“
This year’s event featured food by rising star chef Ari Taymor of Alma (It was voted “Best New Restaurant in America” in 2013 by Bon Appetit). Taymor — who has received numerous accolades in his short career and was recently pegged as one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2013 — presented guests with a dinner filled with classic southern staples such boiled peanuts and hush puppies as appetizers, and fried chicken with black-eyed peas and cornbread for the main course. He capped off the evening with a sweet strawberry shortcake and popcorn with sorghum.
The benefit auction Incognito at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in Bergamot Station is held Saturday from 7-10:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit the museum online.
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