The MassArt Auction is Back for Another Night of Philanthropy

The event showcases contemporary pieces from various disciplines and includes current students, alums, and big names like Shepard Fairey.

Courtesy of MassArt/Melissa Ostrow Photo

Courtesy of MassArt/Melissa Ostrow Photo

The Massachusetts College of Art and Design will host their 27th annual benefit auction this Saturday, April 9. Designed to support and encourage student artists, the proceeds go to scholarships and to aid MassArt’s academic programs. Last year the auction raised over $1 million in one night, and the school is hoping to reach or surpass that amount this weekend.

The MassArt Auction is New England’s largest auction of contemporary artworks, with this year’s event featuring over 300 artists in live and silent auctions. Many of the pieces in the auction come from “blue chip” artists, meaning the artists are well-established and even internationally recognized.

Among the famous names is Shepard Fairey, the man behind the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster. Then there’s prolific Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, whose brightly colored work has been exhibited all around the world. However, an equally impressive amount of student and alumni artists will be represented as well.

Untitled, Samantha Bates

Untitled, Samantha Bates / Photo Provided

Among the students being featured is Samantha Bates, a first-year graduate student. Out of the 1,000 submissions MassArt received this year, Bates’ hand sewn embroidery piece, “Untitled,” was selected to be featured in the silent auction. Bates, a Washington native, uses her home state’s wilderness landscape to influence her work. Her featured piece (shown above) was inspired by her walk home from work while she was living in a small beachside town.

When Bates first applied for the college’s graduate program, she had brought the then-unfinished piece to her admissions interview. After getting accepted into the program, she completed the piece, brought it to Boston and entered it in the auction.

“There are some big names in the upstairs space, but there is also access to all these new artists who are working hard and pursuing art,” says Bates. One established artist Bates admires is Roger Tibbetts, whose print is also a part of the silent auction. “He’s part of the reason why I came to MassArt, and to be involved in an event where his print and my drawing are involved in the same collection is a big moment.”

Marjorie O’Malley, MassArt’s VP of Institutional Advancement, says the involvement of students allows them to network with the Boston art community. It also teaches them marketable skills that they will need later on in their careers to confidently and articulately explain their work.

“I think it’s really important for students to see that people outside of our own community support contemporary art and support contemporary artists,” O’Malley says. “That is huge for these young people who have taken a fearless path to say, ‘I want to be a contemporary artist.’”

The students are not only represented in their submissions, but they’re represented at the event themselves as they staff the evening as curators, greeters, and more. But the involvement doesn’t stop after they’ve graduated. MassArt alumni also get involved by donating artwork for the auction.

Venio, Nicole Chesney / Photo Courtesy of the artist and Gallery NAGA.

Venio, Nicole Chesney / Photo Courtesy of the artist and Gallery NAGA.

Glass artist and MassArt alum Nicole Chesney’s “Venio,” will be bid on during the live auction. To make works such as “Venio,” Chesney applies and removes hundreds of layers of sheer oil paint on glass. The abstract piece is unique because it’s the only blue-hued work of Chesney’s available on the market anywhere in the world right now.

Since graduating, Chesney has created and donated 18 artworks to the auction throughout the years. In fact, Chesney sold her first piece of art at the MassArt auction 19 years ago in 1997. At the time, she was a senior at the college working on completing her BFA.

“To see the piece sold was really a big deal, and to be honest that feeling never gets old,” says Chesney. “I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years and it doesn’t matter what the context is, but a work of art needs a viewer in order to exist.”

Chesney’s work has been viewed by many, with commissions at the 7 World Trade Center in New York City and at MassArt’s Treehouse residence hall on Huntington Ave. Three of her pieces are also currently being exhibited at the MFA in Boston.

Shepard Fairey. Lotus Target Black, 2012, 20 of 35. Three-Color Relief Print on Handmade Paper. 35”x25.5”. $3,775. / Courtesy of Pace Prints.

Lotus Target Black,” Shepard Fairey / Courtesy of Pace Prints.

The auction continues to grow in size, support, and reach. Throughout the years, O’Malley has noted that Boston has come to embrace contemporary art in a big way.

“I think people have come to realize that [the auction] a great way to support emerging artists,” adds O’Malley. “People are really committed to where the dollars are going and they see MassArt increasingly as a central point where new artists are emerging and contemporary art is being created.”

Tickets to the auction are sold out, but the public can go online to preview and bid on all auction artwork by visiting Paddle8. Bidding online ends at noon on April 8.