At the Santa Monica Museum of Art this last Saturday, the budget art bacchanal known as "Incognito" returned for its seventh year. The fundraiser is named such as the names of the artists are unknown until you pay your money (multiple packages available from tickets for lumpen lookie-loos up to five figures for the haute-bourgeois), the list of names front-ended as a teaser before the sale and consisting of over 500 prominent (and less prominent) artists.
Just by way of a random slice with no particular preference or order, here’s a few names: Bettina Hubby, Salomón Huerta, Dusadee Huntrakul, Eva Hyam, Alex Israel, Patrick Jackson, Mac James, Max Jansons, Ellen Jantzen, JC Jaress, Carrie Jenkins, Sara Jerome, Butt Johnson, Robert Johnson, Vincent Johnson, Vincent Joliet, Michael Joo, Jow, Sharon Kagan, Cindy Kane, Yoichi Kawamura, Veronika Kellndorfer, and Mary Kelly. But “Incognito” is perhaps less about the random and more about spotting a deal and if you can’t get an Ed Ruscha, you’ll be, at the very least, a fledgling collector.
The criteria of the work for the sample sale was an 8" x10" format and any sculptures to be approximately the same size in depth. Patrons and art buyers had the option to participate on many different levels, but fundamentally, the goal was to eradicate collecting barriers and remove hierarchical preconceptions, that is after the other pretty prominent goal: to raise money for the museum.
When the doors cracked for those enthusiastically lined up outside the museum, hundreds of people (literally) scurried in, expensive pumps clacking across the concrete floor, as they scrambled for art in one of those disconcerting shopping frenzies reminiscent of Walmart's pre-Christmas “doorbuster” sales, but here of course the bumrushers were less big-box-buying general public and more the well-shod patrons of the arts. With more than 100 volunteers working to properly package and account for all of the works, by the end of the night, scores of works had been sold with stacks more tickets being processed.
Jenna Adams, a volunteer for the evening, found herself inexplicably attached to one particular work. Eyeballing as its peers were snatched up, she coveted the piece all evening, and stayed by it, hoping that no one would pick it. All she could manage in extra spending cash was $150.00, so she proceeded to get on the phone with various family members of the Adams clan with no luck to persuade them to loan her the rest (one can imagine the conversation: “I need a loan... Why? … To buy this incredibly beautiful work of art... who’s it by? I don’t know … Hello? Hello? … Are you laughing? ....”).
Samuel Freeman, owner of a gallery across the parking lot, by providence and observation noticed her dilemma and was kind enough to chip in the rest (it is charity after all), resulting in her proud purchase. Although Samuel Freeman Gallery is soon to relocate to Culver City, so I hear, the common understanding is that the Los Angeles Art Community (caps intentional) is hopefully cohesive enough to transcend zip codes. Furthermore, the moral of this heartwarming conclusion is that in order to generate a collective hunger for art, the best way to start is by encouraging collecting in a single volunteer who is genuine and genuinely interested in buying just one piece.
Photo of Jenna Adams by Monica Orozco. Artwork by Bruce Busby.