Friday, December 5, 2014

Gantt’s online auction brings art collecting to the masses

Posted By on Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 10:22 AM

There’s a unique thrill that comes with an art auction victory. You have your prize, the sculpture or painting that captured your breath, as well as the schadenfreude of beating someone else out at the last minute. It can be a difficult itch to scratch for those of champagne tastes and beer money, but The Harvey B. Gantt Center has made it just a bit more accessible. The Gantt is marking its 40th anniversary with its first-ever online art auction, live now through 6 p.m. The remaining pieces will be available for bidding at Saturday’s Jazzy Gala.

Proceeds from the annual fundraiser benefit education and public programs at the Gantt Center. But just as important as raising money, says Jonell Logan, director of education and public programs, is the Gantt’s commitment to building up a community of collectors — especially among younger patrons.

“We’re pushing people to change their expectations of who they define as a collector,” Logan says. “You can’t buy a Picasso, but you can buy an emerging artist’s work, especially if you’re looking at the art world to see who is moving the art needle.”

All of the participating artists have partnered with or exhibited at the Gantt at one point in the last 40 years. Each artist selected work to contribute to the auction, ranging in price from $350 to $4,000.

“That price point was important to create an environment where collectors could actually collect,” Logan says. The auction also continues the Gantt’s educational series this year on how to collect and live with art. That piece is vital to cultivating a younger community that supports art, and especially that of African-American artists.

Of course, folks with a lot of disposable income tend to be older, so the Gantt is reaching out to them as well. Logan says bidders are ranging in age from their 20s to seniors, and the Gantt has staff on hand during business hours to walk the less-technically savvy through the online bidding process.

Antoine Williams’ mixed media piece, "Just Cause He Got a Little Hair on His Chest," has generated a mini bidding war, while William Villalongo’s mythical feminine figure "4 Color Conversion" was purchased outright on Thanksgiving Day. Michael Platt’s ethereal "Wedding Walk" also went quickly.

William Villalongo’s 4 Color Conversion
  • William Villalongo’s '4 Color Conversion'

Other artists include Deborah Willis, Ph. D., Gantt Center Spirit of the Center Award Honoree; Nelly Ashford; Endia Beal; Michaela Pilar Brown; Willie Cole; Charles Farrar; Jonathan Green; Chris Johnson; Wanda King; Juan Logan; Sana Musasama; Tommie Robinson; and David Wilson.
As with most auctions, one can make bids or purchase items right away.

Tommie Robinsons Gift
  • Tommie Robinson's 'Gift'

Logan, who has worked in museums and the art sector many years, thought the idea of an auction was perfect for the Gantt.

“It allows us to engage with the immediate audience and reach the national and international buying community. An auction attracts attention from people who may have never heard of your institution,” she says.

Asked if there was pushback from more traditional members, Logan says no. Though online auctions are uncharted territory for the Gantt, Logan made sure everyone on staff was trained, so they can explain the process to other folks and handle questions quickly. After that, things got onboard pretty swiftly.

An older man purchased the Villalongo piece online, but wished to remain anonymous. “A lot of seniors have figured it out and are way more active than we expected,” Logan says. Still, there will be live bidding this Saturday at the Jazzy Holiday Gala, for folks who prefer the live experience.

Kevin Coles Blanket Series, Passion of Faith
  • Kevin Cole's 'Blanket Series, Passion of Faith'

Get your bid on at http://paddle8.com/auction/ganttcenter, as tickets for Saturday’s Jazzy Holiday Gala are officially sold out.

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