A Hot Hollywood at LACE’s Benefit Art Auction
“Ditch the jacket. It’s always hot in there.”
I disregard the warning. Hollywood is hushed, cool, with the usual spattering of sleaze and stale piss.
A doorman swings open the glass doors to the baking hot Benefit Art Auction at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. LACE is now in its 38th year as a stalwart LA arts nonprofit; tonight’s proceeds support its programming of innovative exhibitions and public projects.
Recently getting laid off, embracing a “fuck it” attitude, and subsequently paying a decent sum on my jacket; I had no real plans of bidding. Benefit auctions tend to offer lower reserves but bids can often skyrocket in the fuzzy-hearted spirit of charity. Works filled the gallery walls. Originals, prints, sculptures varying from emerging to established artists, including Todd Gray, Phyllis Green, Sam Durant, and Ed Ruscha.
A LACE employee points to iPads along the walls, “You can bid on any of the pieces online.” She turns to a curated selection of eight works, including the bigger names of the late Chris Burden and John Baldessari: “These works will be live auctioned in 15 minutes. Nice jacket.”
The silent auction is hosted on Paddle8, one in a recent wave of sites transitioning art buying to online. You can see bids already placed, mostly in the lower hundreds. “I wanted the so-and-so, but not for that price,” is the retort of the night. I get talking to perhaps one of the few people here who actually does have money to spend on art. He asks if my jacket is silk. We flip the collar for the tag: shit—100% polyester. I had thoughtlessly overpaid. If only impulsive fuck-it materialism applied more to art buying. I imagine there would be a lot more bad art, and none to last the ages. This benefit auction would be a cash cow however, and the crowd wouldn’t be so unemployed.
Tonight’s auctioneer, Dane Jensen of Bonhams, starts the live auction. The rhythm of each sale is consistent. Jensen struggles to get the bidding started, but once one person gives in the works go quick. The Chris Burden print is next.
“$2,800. That’s $5,200 below estimate.”
An uneasy silence. Across the room, there’s a bid. Then another by someone behind me, I assume. The bidding is navigated silently: stares, nods, hand gestures. I have been fidgeting with an itch when it occurs to me that there might not be a bidder behind me. I am an overstated scratcher, could that have been mistaken for a bid? Jensen looks in my direction again with a smoldering stare, and the heat becomes unbearable. Could I live with it? Would I be able to justify the price proportionately by the number of compliments I receive?
“$3,500. Fair warning, last chance. Sold!”
A man behind me guffaws in victory.
“That’s a great win,” someone congratulates.
I look back at the Burden, feeling remorse at my loss. Then I am reminded that I am unemployed and paid too much for a now thoroughly sweat-soaked 100% polyester jacket. I pick up an hors d’oeuvres napkin from the catering table and dab my wet brow. It really is uncomfortably hot.
Works auctioned can be viewed at: https://paddle8.com/auction/lace/