Bemis readies for 13th annual art auction
October 12th, 2011
Omaha’s finest attended the 13th annual Bemis Art Auction Oct. 15 in traditionally chic style. The night was a success for the studio, which drew in over 1,000 people (over three nights) and raised a total of over $440,000. Proceeds benefit the Bemis’ internationally recognized artist-in-residence program.
Omaha, NE – The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts is hosting its signature annual event this week.
“It’s a pretty phenomenal event, you know, five or six hundred people are here,” said Hesse McGraw, Chief Curator at the Bemis, describing the atmosphere at a typical Bemis auction. McGraw led me around the Center’s large, open, white-washed gallery downtown, as the space is readied for the 13th annual Bemis Art Auction Saturday night. “The place is literally packed, but with an audience as well as with the work itself.
The gala event is the Bemis’ largest fundraiser, and will feature – in total – over 400 works of art by 288 different artists.
“This represents a kind of huge swath of contemporary art production, both locally but also internationally,” McGraw said. “So I think as you walk around the room, it’s kind of this amazing situation where you see artists who are internationally recognized, their works being shown alongside very young and emerging and exciting local artists.”
McGraw says the auction will feature works from about 140 local artists, 50 international and about 100 former artists-in-residence. The goal of the auction, he says, is to provide direct support to artists and the Bemis programs. In addition to Saturday night’s gala auction at the Bemis Center, the Bemis Underground will host its own auction on Thursday night.
Mark Masuoka is the Executive Director of the Bemis Center. He says the establishment of the Underground represents a significant step in the Center’s 30 year history, with its focus on emerging, local artists. “What’s really become sort of significant is the ability for us to be relevant in this community,” Masuoka said, “not just as an international artists-in-residence program, where artists from all around the world come and live and work in our facility, but also the impact that we have on this community, on Omaha and the artists that live and work within the area and the region.”
Masuoka says the Bemis Center has grown “in leaps and bounds” over the last 30 years – from a collection of ad hoc spaces in old brickworks and salvage areas by the river, to a cohesive, globally-recognized studio. And that progress was made possible through community support, he says, which comes to the fore each year at the auction.
“Omaha’s very generous, and they understand the value of philanthropic community,” he said. “When you come to the Bemis auction, you see two things: a lot of activities happening with the auction, and just sort of the level of socialization and people gazing, but then you also see people who are really serious about supporting the Bemis, and they have been for many years. We’ve seen phenomenal growth and with that phenomenal growth, we couldn’t have done it without the support of the community.”
Hesse McGraw says the auction is fast-paced and high-energy, and he recommends art lovers and art collectors visit the studio before auction night to peruse the pieces and pick some favorites. The Bemis Gala Art Auction is Saturday, October 15th from 5:30-10:00pm, and the Bemis Underground Auction is Thursday, October 13 from 6:30-9:30pm.
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