While I'm sorry that a significant number of Suite Home Chicago artists failed to realize their expectations in the auction cycle administrated by the folks at Public Art, the Chicago Artists' Coalition's advice to boycott auctions (Culture Club, 11/23/01) seems misguided at best. It's true that art is often auctioned for far less than it might bring in a commercial gallery. On occasion, it is auctioned for far more than its listed retail value. At a recent Hyde Park Art Center auction, we were saddened when beautiful pieces by celebrated artists went for low minimum bids, and delighted when the work of a relative unknown was the subject of an intense bidding war. In both instances we, and the artists, accepted the fact that you can't control the outcome of an auction. The artists donated their work to us. It was a gift, and we are grateful for it. We could not provide the exhibition opportunities we do without their support.
Auctions also offer artists a new audience, and give young collectors the opportunity to invest in original art--often for the first time--initiating a relationship that may become significantly meaningful to both artist and collector. Everyone understands that the auction is held for a good cause--and that every donation counts. The arts organizations that hold auctions support artists through exhibitions, publication, and curatorial opportunities. Artists welcome the opportunity to reciprocate. Seasoned artists "sit out" auctions for a while, when suffering from auction fatigue. But artists, who rarely have large stacks of cash to hand out, make every bit as meaningful a contribution as the corporate sponsors who also help to underwrite our programs. Not-for-profit galleries, magazines, and institutions cannot survive without the involvement of the artists whom they serve.
If the CAC wants to do something about the deplorable tax deduction situation, they might harness the considerable energies of their membership to help pass legislation entitling artists to fair, full market value deductions for these donations. Advocating a wholesale boycott of all auctions seems like cutting off your shows to spite your space.
Hyde Park Art Center