Visual AIDS raises money for HIV-positive artists with a two-day auction of postcard-size proportions.
There’s no way $85 could get you a piece of art by, say, John Waters, John Baldessari or Yoko Ono, right? Wrong.
At Visual AIDS’ 14th annual fundraiser exhibit, Postcards From the Edge, over 1,500 artists have donated postcard-size works of art that are sold as part of a two-day fundraising effort for the art archive and AIDS advocacy group, and the artists range from first-timers to famous names. The catch is that you won’t know whose art you’ve got until you’ve purchased your selection. “That is the big draw, and it is what makes it unique,” says Nelson Santos, Associate Director of Visual AIDS. “People show up at the preview and…run around and take notes and try to guess whose [art] is whose,” he tells us. “People start lining up hours ahead of time. There are some people who actually camp out overnight.”
The organization, which was founded in 1988, works to preserve the art in danger of neglect as a result of the AIDS epidemic. “[We] archive the work and try to historicize the contribution of HIV-positive artists as well as artists who have died of AIDS,” says Amy Sadao, Executive Director of Visual AIDS. “Most people in their 20s and 30s aren’t thinking, ‘Where would my archive go? How will I keep a record of my work? I should appoint an estate,’” she says. “That was the root of the archive’s programs coming to Visual AIDS—really as a salvaging and a record-keeping project.” In addition, they expect to donate $22,000 worth of arts supplies to HIV-positive artists this year alone.
Visual AIDS typically produces two to three exhibitions at galleries around the city—like the recently closed The Sword of Damocles: Selections from the Frank Moore Archive Project at The Painting Center in Chelsea and a nationwide December 1 screening of Jim Hodges’ non-narrative film, Untitled, in observance of World AIDS Day. These shows help support the art repository. But despite only having two full-time staff members, the archive operates on an annual budget of around $300,000—without an endowment. Postcards From the Edge has become one of their largest annual fundraisers. “Hopefully [we’ll raise] over $70,000,” Sadao tells us. “It turns right over into the program and the operating of the organization.”
Plus, Postcards From the Edge is a great way for newer artists—especially those affected by HIV—to find an audience for their work. “Even though it’s this huge event it becomes a small community,” Santos explains.
Collectors might get lucky enough to pick out a piece by someone famous, but that really isn’t the point—or the best part—of the Visual AIDS fundraiser. At Postcards From the Edge you don’t have to be able to drop $10,000—or even $500—to be able to contribute to a philanthropic endeavor. “[The low price tag] makes the event more democratic,” says the Associate Director. “You’re not buying [the art] because of a name. Hopefully you’re buying it because you really like the work and you want to help a good cause.”
Postcards From the Edge at Cheim & Read Gallery, 547 W 25th St (btwn 10th/11th Aves), Jan 7 from 10am–6pm and Jan 8 from noon–4pm; $5 suggested admission. Visit thebody.com/visualaids for more info.