If you’re not rich or if you’ve never worked for a non-profit, you might not know that these months—October, November (minus Thanksgiving weekend) and early December—are otherwise known as gala season.
For BRIC, short for Brooklyn Information and Culture, though rarely referred to in the long form, the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, it’s the primetime for wine and dine fundraising. Last week, BRIC hosted their annual gala, arts auction and after party; this year, they raised over $300K.
In part, that money was raised through the auction of seven works—mostly photography and drawing—during and before the dinner portion, as well as through the sale of three artworks live-painted during the after party, which also featured music by DJ Jubilee.
The seven pre-existing works, donated by the artists, included a silver gelatin print by Nelson Bakerman valued at $3,500, a chromogenic analog photograph by Liz Nielson valued at $2,800, and this incredible print on handmade Mulberry paper—Hurricane XII—valued at $12,000, by Clifford Ross.
The live-painting came into play post-auction and post-dinner. The scene felt important and fun, mostly: good clothes with a respectable flash of flair, ex and current city employees, artists, “business people”, piles of vodka and four-inch tumbler pours of wine, tiny snacks, hugs and back pats, and—in this particular case, three artists dressed in white hazmat-style suits standing in front of three blank canvases.
BRIC asked artists Jing Wei, Ana Benaroya, and Mike Perry to live-paint—together, rotating from easel to easel—these three canvases, which party-goers then committed to buy, if interested.
Intended to have a sort of gameshow effect, host Willy Appelman, cute like Daniel Radcliffe pre-Equus, ran around plucking people from the audience and encouraging involvement. After instructing the DJ to take it down a notch, he proclaimed to her, to everyone, “she is so lovely and so attractive!”—part of a constant stream of high-energy information. “Mike Perry, everyone!” he exclaimed, after Mike Perry grabbed the microphone from him and commanded people to sit closer to the action.
In theory, Appelman’s interaction with the audience produced results on the canvases. Audience members finished his sentences, mad-lib style, and, detectable or not, their answers appeared in the art. In the background, a large work by Marela Zacarias glowed in the low light; it looked like a thirty-foot kleenex, frozen and lacquered. “Part of the Material Cultures show,” BRIC’s VP of Contemporary Art, Elizabeth Ferrer, told me. Ferrer was wearing a snazzy Keith Haring-esque Rachel Comey dress and buzzing from conversation to conversation, a sort of sweetness in the way she seemed slightly overwhelmed, and pleased, by the general attention to her programming. She’s been with BRIC for over ten years.
Above the bidding fray, by the bar, people mingled, met fellow arts-supporters, and got advice. I was in the middle of an organics bin problem-solving session with a woman from Prime Strategies, a consulting firm with an office here in Brooklyn; my new friend used to work for the city, and knew exactly who to contact about getting me a cute brown bin. Artist Jackie Chang, famous for her public installations, sat at our table for a second, musing with us about the intersection of public art and live-painting in hazmat suits. A very Brooklyn gala, indeed.