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Lovers of art and fine dining gathered at UTA Artist Space in Beverly Hills on Tuesday for a sit-down dinner and a first look at works donated by artists to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York on May 16-17, benefitting the Hammer Museum’s Artist Fund. Among the celebrants was Hammer director Ann Philbin, collector and Hammer board member Susan Nimoy, legendary TV producer Marcy Carsey and Sex and the City creator Darren Star.
“It’s a testament to Annie Philbin who has amazing relationships with these artists, personal relationships. And her passion for art and L.A. artists is so on display here tonight, and also how much they love her,” Star tells The Hollywood Reporter as he eyeballs works by favorite artists like Mark Bradford, Catherine Opie, Rashid Johnson and Laura Owens. “The way artists have revitalized downtown, and they come from everywhere. They all want to be in L.A. now. It’s like it’s become the center of the art scene in the country.”
Hammer board chair and producer Marcy Carsey had her eye on a large-scale soft-focus print by Catherine Opie ($40,000-60,000), as well as a Charles Gaines’ mixed media piece, Tree #6 ($150,000-$200,000). “Annie is known to be a champion of artists, especially emerging artists. In this case, because she’s never asked artists to do this before, I think people stepped up because it’s Annie and because it’s unusual that she would ask,” Carsey says.
The roughly 40 artworks will remain on view through April 20 at UTA Artist Space, a venue no doubt made available by UTA co-founder Peter Benedek, a Hammer board member, as was UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer. Among the works hitting the blocks is Mark Bradford’s Scratch Pink, which is estimated between $2 million and $3 million, but Sotheby’s West Coast chairman Thomas Bompard thinks it will sell for a lot more. He also points to more sensibly priced pieces, like a drawing by Sigmar Polke for an estimated $10,000-$15,000.
“What is really interesting in this sale is you have many different kinds of works. You have works for every collector, every budget, every sensibility,” says Bompard of a show that includes Barbara Kruger’s large-scale Untitled (Avoid eye contact) ($200,000-$300,000), Mark Grotjohn’s Untitled (Poppy Red & Yellow Orange Butterfly 50.94) ($600,00-$800,000), Jonas Woods’ Shio Butterfly Still Life ($300,000-$400,000), Laura Owens’ untitled acrylic and oil ($350,000-$450,0000), as well as works by legends like Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, Cindy Sherman and Louise Bourgeois, with as many as 10 new pieces created specifically for the auction.
Since coming to the Hammer 20 years ago from the Drawing Center in New York, Philbin’s operating budget has bloomed from $5 million to $25 million. Proceeds from the Sotheby’s auction will go to the Artist Fund, part of a larger capitalization program launched last year with a goal of $180 million toward increasing exhibition space by 60 percent, as well as additional programs and exhibits. To date, the museum has raised $140 million.
The Hammer’s biennial Made in L.A. show has been a launchpad for the city’s emerging artists and is one of the reasons many were so willing to give, especially those who trace their early success to the Hammer. Kenny Scharf, whose donation, Flores Flores Flores, is estimated at $60,000 to $80,000, thinks the arresting lineup of talent is due to the sterling reputation of not just Philbin but the museum as well. “The Hammer is such an important place not only in L.A. but pretty much in the art world,” he says. “So, there was no way I was going to say no.”
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