Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Patron Show

For my birthday last month my dad and stepmother gave Miss L and I one ticket each for the annual patron show for the Alexandria Art League, held at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria, Va. every year the Sunday before President's Day, it's the major fundraiser for the Art League. Members donate works of art---paintings, sculpture, pottery, photographs, collage, etc.---and a ticket is sold for each work. Done as a raffle, tickets are drawn out of a bin and names are called at random. When your name is called you yell out the number for the work of art you want and, assuming it wasn't already called, you get to take it home and put it up on your wall. This year 555 works of art were donated, making it a packed gallery and a packed area while people waited for their names to be called.

Miss L and I dropped by the galleries last week after the art was first mounted. Because of the tight space, they're hung old European style with 3, 4, even five paintings hung right below each other to maximize wall space. They give you a printed list . Everyone seems to have their own system for rating and keeping track of what they like. Some took photos with their digital camera, intending to make flash cards so they can sort them into their order of preference. Some used color coding schemes and others created odd systems of arcane runes only they could understand. Miss L and I opted for a straight-forward Academic-style grading system.

Things were pretty packed for the actual event this past Sunday. Virtually every usable space on the main floor was taken up with ticket-holders, and even more people were crammed into the second level, looking down from the balcony.

Looking down from the balcony

The Torpedo Factory provided chairs, and people come expecting to stay for several hours. Many treated it like a picnic, bringing coolers with food, bottles of wine, and thermoses filled with coffee or hot cocoa. The event staff set up sound-speakers and a big sign used to mark off works of art as they were chosen.

Board used to mark off selected pieces

Once the names started being called, it moved fast. Everyone focused on listening for what people chose so they could cross it off of their list. Soft groans would issue when something popular was picked. If someone didn't pay enough attention and called a number someone else had already called they would be warned by a series of boos.

Miss L actually received the first firing of boos. Her first choice was taken and the fellow ticket-holders were pretty unforgiving in doling out their verbal punishment. She was a little flustered at first, but she but recovered quickly enough to snag her second choice, a nice diptych abstract painting by C. Dale entitled Deep Freeze 1 & 2. It was actually my first choice, so while I was a touch hurt that she stole it from me I take solace in the fact that she'll let me visit it in her apartment.

Deep Freeze 1 & 2

My turn came up about a half-hour into the raffle. I won a nice watercolor semi-abstract by A. Mazor entitled In the Deep. It was pretty high on my list, so I'm really happy with what I got. Miss L compared it to Arthur Dove, which is probably pretty accurate.

Into the Deep

The comedy moment of the night came up when my stepmother's name was called; she went through about four choices that were already taken before finding one that was open. For a moment I really thought some people were going to toss her out of the building.

All in all, a great time. I've had it in my head for a long time that I'd like to collect art when I can afford it. And while this event wasn't something I could have afforded if it hadn't been gift, who knows? I'd love to go again if I have the chance. Either way, I've got a pretty good start on my little art collection.


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