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“Buy Art Now” Auction: Fun Way to Raise Funds:

Art lovers had fun raising money at “Buy Art Now,” the art auction held by Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation’s (SMMEF) For The Arts at Bergamot Station’s Track 16 Gallery.

The organization, which raises funds for art education in schools, held both a silent auction and a live auction of works by prominent local artists such as Laddie John Dill, John Baldessari, Ruth Weisberg, Julius Shulman, and Chuck Arnoldi.

At the October 11 event, auction co-chairs Weisberg and Dill spoke to the audience about the importance of art education. Weisberg said that her daughter was an alumna of Santa Monica High School, and when Weisberg asked her if Samohi had made a difference in her life, she replied: “They made a transformation in my life. My teachers were willing to take me seriously.” Weisberg’s daughter now teaches art history at Yale.

Dill also spoke of going to Samohi, which he credits for turning his life in the direction of being a serious artist.

The attendees were serious about supporting arts education, but the event made that support painless, as everyone enjoyed looking at the displayed art and in many cases, bidding on it.

The silent auction preceded the live event, as guests milled about Track 16, munching on hors d’oeuvre and listening to an exceptional string ensemble from Santa Monica High School.

For those who were not bidding, there was still vicarious fun to be had in walking around and seeing how many bidders there were for a particular work. And there was the enjoyment of the art itself.

Damian Elwes’ “Monet’s Studio” (Giverny, 1902) was a breathtaking canvas depicting Elwes’ conception of a studio with flower-upholstered furniture, a huge picture window through which lush foliage could be seen, and miniature Monet paintings hanging on the walls.

Gavin Scott’s “How the West Was Won” combined old movie posters, dolls, toy covered wagons, toy horses, toy guns, and other “ephemera” to create a diorama of the frontier West that was at once childlike, nostalgic, and a good example of adaptive re-use of found objects.

It took a while, however, for these two works to receive bids. When they eventually started to accumulate interested buyers, this reporter felt some relief.

Robbie Conal’s familiar poster of Gandhi, “Watching,” was one of the hottest items in the silent auction, as at least four bidders competed for it and went beyond the bid sheet’s pre-printed bids to the point where the bids were being scribbled in by hand.

The live auction was cried by Robert Berman of the Robert Berman Gallery. Among the items auctioned off were a colorful monoprint by Chuck Arnoldi that went for $2200, a Ruth Weisberg etching for $800, a signed copy of Ed Ruscha’s book Then And Now for $2000, a unique seascape in teal blue and rust red-brown by Laddie John Dill for $2700, and a tiny bronze animal by Gwynn Murrill for $800.

The last work auctioned, Astrid Preston’s oil painting “Applewood,” ignited a bidding war right on the floor, with the bids rising beyond the appraised value of $6,000. The winner walked away with the painting for $6,200.

According to SMMEF Executive Director Linda Gross, the estimated take from the auction was $75,000.

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