View the art in person, then bid online before and during a virtual event.
This is the model for the 2022 Benefit Art Auction at the Missoula Art Museum.
The exhibit has 82 pieces, with renowned Montana artists throughout – Beth Lo, Monte Dolack, Hadley Ferguson, Stephanie Frostad and more, alongside emerging artists and new names. As in years past, this is one of the most diverse exhibitions they have put on, said associate curator John Calsbeek.
Mediums and genres range from landscape to portraits and abstraction in painting, drawing, textiles, ceramics and things you may never have heard of before – see Christine Joy’s sculpture d a stone wrapped comfortably in braided grasses.
Last year the auction was virtual and they did not exhibit the work for logistical reasons, which they have remedied this year.
“We really wanted to do a physical exhibition this year, in part because it’s a chance to honor artists and work with artists in our community,” said Brandon Reintjes, MAM’s senior curator. Although the art is visible online, the scale and detail often doesn’t translate.
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The show opens in the Carnegie Galleries, its largest space, on Friday, January 7, but the MAM won’t be open late for the art walk. You can stop by at the usual hours, Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The auction itself is a virtual event on Saturday, February 5. It is usually held in person with hundreds of people in attendance in the University Center Ballroom, with a loud, mingled atmosphere featuring food and drink and performers and supporters from across the state.
Going virtual again was “a necessity,” said Laura Millin, executive director of MAM. This year, they aim to create a “bigger and more dynamic live event” based on last year’s experience. It will last one hour, with a live auction of 10 items and more product segments.
Last year they raised $98,000 for programming, which includes local, regional and national contemporary art exhibits throughout the year. This includes the Frost Gallery, which focuses exclusively on contemporary Indigenous art. The museum is also free and introduces hundreds of local children to art through its fifth-grade art experience.
The show still has a community atmosphere, so residents of Missoula will see longtime creators.
Members of the Pattee Canyon Ladies’ Salon contributed pieces – you’ll see works by Stephanie Frostad, Kristi Hager, Nancy Erickson and Leslie Van Stavern Millar.
In Hadley Ferguson’s painting, ‘Late Evening Sky Over Calm Waters’ (acrylic on clay board), a rich sky overlooks mountains and a river. Ferguson’s large-scale murals include the Montana Women’s Mural at the State Capitol.
One of the first exhibitors is Bonnie Tarses, a textile designer and weaver well known in the city for her scarves. She made an untitled multimedia piece with dyed silk tightly bound around squares, like an abstract chessboard pattern.
Dave Thomas, an abstract painter from Idaho, has a piece dominated by three impastos that stand out from the paper like cake icing — an example of how works read differently in person versus online.
Todd Forsgren donated a photograph, “Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)”, a highly detailed photo of the blushed-orange bird in a net. (According to his website, this is part of a series in which the birds are temporarily captured in mist nets by researchers to take their weight and measurements.) Professor of Art and Gallery Director at Rocky Mountain College in Billings , he published his work in outlets. like National Geographic, the Guardian and more.
A rare paired lot brings together pieces from artists who helped bring modernism to Montana. It includes a stoneware bowl by Frances Senska and a screen print by her partner, Jessie Wilbur. Senska taught at Montana State University and counted Rudy Autio and Peter Voulkos among his students. Reintjes said their significance to art history “far outweighs” their job market nationally or even their knowledge locally.
The landscape is present through many mediums. MSU professor Gesine Jenzen donated a three-tone woodcut of a forest scene at close range, with careful delineation of trees as they recede. UM professor Steve Krutek rendered a dense forest scene in charcoal that reminded Calsbeek of Lee Friedlander’s large-format black-and-white forest scenes. Sheila Miles, a longtime Montana artist now based in the Southwest, contributed “The top of fall,” a classic mountain lake scene that draws inspiration from her long history of working in abstraction.
A number of plays were donated by Matrix Press to the University of Montana School of Art and Media. The Print Lab and MAM have a partnership that brings guest artists to Missoula to produce new work with the help of UM instructors and students, and then exhibit at MAM.
A monoprint by Oregon artist Lillian Pitt (Wasco, Warm Springs, Yakama) has images that will be familiar to those who saw her popular exhibition at MAM in 2019-20, in which a mask submerged in waters gazes passing fish. Neal Ambrose-Smith, whose exhibition “Where Are You Going?” is still on view, collaborated on a print with Jason Clark and James Bailey of The Matrix, in which each artist contributed their own distinctive imagery.
Millin said she likes to remember that the first auction was held to start the museum.
“Truly the artists for the first supporters, the first patrons, the first donors to the effort through this auction and they have been doing so ever since.”
Artists donate coins on a shared percentage, so the money goes to the artists as well.
The auction is Saturday, February 5 at 6 p.m. It’s free. Go to missoulaartmuseum.org, where you can view all items now, see key dates, and find more information on how to bid.
This year the auction includes 10 items that will be auctioned live during the virtual auction. The remaining coins, for a total of 82, are divided into two silent auction sections that end at 8 p.m. on Saturday February 5 and 5 p.m. on Sunday February 6.
The live event will last for an hour, with longtime auctioneer Johanna Wells on board live from the gallery. All 10 coins will be auctioned within a tight time frame, which encourages bidding wars. They are recording videos in advance to give a higher feel than last year.
There are two sections of silent auction coins. From January 23 to 27, there is a “buy now” option (with a premium), before the auction opens on January 28.
On auction night, the first batch of the silent auction closes at 8 p.m. and the second batch closes the following day, February 6, at 5 p.m.
While going virtual again hasn’t been ideal, MAM has exercised caution with all of its events during the pandemic.
“We’re really hoping we can restore that next year,” Millin said. “Not just the auction, but the MAM – and all of its events and functions. We are all woefully deprived…and desperate for human contact. And that’s what art needs. Art needs people who watch it and watch it together and we sorely miss the joy of that. But what do we do? We carry on, we persevere.