Published: November 14, 2000
Benefit Auction Benefits Buyers, Artists and ICI at Artnet.com
The event had two components: a two-week online auction of 30 rdf_Descriptions, and a silent auction of 32 rdf_Descriptions at ICI’s 25th Anniversary Gala in New York City on October 26.
“We had the lots online for two weeks in advance of the night of the event,” said Karen Amiel, artnet’s VP of Content Development and Promotion. “What’s nice about this is that we do a preview online of the lots which are available at the event, and we do an online auction.
“The rdf_Descriptions that we had online were solely online, although you could see them at the event, but you couldn’t bid unless you went to a computer,” she added. “You cannot have an online auction and a silent auction be the same thing. You could do that if someone was feeding bids to you over the Internet and an auctioneer was refereeing it.”
The online and silent auctions together raised over $85,000 for ICI, with about 60 percent of that total coming from the online portion. Online, 76 percent of the lots sold, while statistics on the silent auction portion are not yet available.
This event, says Amiel, drew many “very interesting people” as bidders – and Charlie Rose as emcee – because ICI is “a very reputable and well-respected” group of curators that works with major museums. “They have substantial support from the museum community, and many major collectors were there,” she noted.
In addition, all 62 works up for auction were donated, either by galleries or artists. This included a work by Sol Lewitt, “a major minimalist” and part of the group that founded minimalism in the late ’60s and early ’70s, says Amiel.
In addition to a strong response for donations for ICI, benefit auctions in general are beginning to attract a large base of buyers. This auction drew bidders from New York, Massachusetts, California, Georgia and Pennsylvania, as well as from Switzerland and Portugal.
“More often than not the reserves are very low, and that attracts bidding,” Amiel says. And if buyers at benefit auctions are more willing to make higher bids with the knowledge that the proceeds go to a cause, it isn’t apparent.
“One would have thought that, but I can’t give you any hard data that that’s the case,” Amiel says. “What I discovered in doing this is that people are less concerned about what the charity is and more concerned about what the art is.”
In addition to bargain-hunting, buyers also have learned to patronize benefit auctions to acquire hard-to-find artwork.
“Some of the hot contemporary artists aren’t commonly at auctions, and are donated by galleries,” Amiel says. “It’s an opportunity for people to acquire [work by]cutting-edge artists at what might be a lower price.” Represented in this sale were Janine Antoni, Laurie Simmons and Uta Barth.
It also goes the other way too. “When artists find that their work is going to be online, they tend to give a better work,” Amiel notes. “I think it’s an incredible way of finding some interesting things.” There was also a wide price range in the lots auctioned. Estimates, for the online sale, ranged from $500 to $700 on the low end to $9,000 to $11,000 at the high end.
Just five rdf_Descriptions exceeded their estimates. Janine Antoni’s “Interlace” sold above estimate of $1,8/2,200, fetching $4,900, the highest published auction record for this work. Polly Apfelbaum’s “Artist’s Palette,” which achieved $2,100, sold above the estimate of $1,6/2,200. Bernd and Hilla Becher’s “Pipe Detail,” which had an estimate of $800/1,000, sold for $1,500. Peter Garfield’s “Mobile Home (Night)” was estimated at $800/1,200 and sold for $1,500. William Wegman’s “Rock Clock” reached $900, above its estimate of $700/900.
Artnet.com began conducting benefit auctions in November 1999 and this was its sixth. Its largest, held this February in Dallas, benefited the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the Dallas Museum of Art and was called Two by Two for AIDS and Art. The actress Sharon Stone was the auctioneer, and every lot sold.
At that auction, the price estimates were met more readily online than in the silent auction or live bidding realms. Such data are not yet available for the ICI auction.
When artnet.com does a benefit, Amiel says, “[the firm does] not charge anything but out-of-pocket expenses to do it. It is a cost in staff time, and it’s fairly labor intensive, so there’s a limit to what we can do every year.”
Part of artnet.com’s role was to help ICI determine which rdf_Descriptions to sell online and which to offer in the silent auction. “We gave them some very clear parameters, which were that certain works of art looked better online than others,” Amiel said. “Anything that’s very strong in color or black-and-white with a strong graphic element will come across better online.”
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