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Art for AIDS Auction Gala

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As an established art consultant, curator and art director, please note, that I ask these questions for those artists who wish to know more about the world of donating, because in my many years in the art world, this has been a huge hurdle for many artists to overcome.  Many donate, believing that their art will have exposure that validates their donation in terms of attendees, patrons of the arts, future exposure and alignment with other arts organizations within the city.

Some non-profits capitalize off the ignorance of artists, but in their defense, are also supporting a good cause being a non-profit, but this can be a struggling rabbit hole for artists who are just getting to that point of exposure.  In my almost 20 years of being in San Francisco, there are only two main auctions that many local professional artists dedicate their work to for a good cause and one of them is Art For AIDS, which is coming up in about 2 weeks and counting.  Submissions are currently closed for artists, but this article is for those who are considering donating in the future and for those who just love art and want to learn more about the process.  My questions may seem daft to some, but please note, that I am looking to provide a platform of exposure for those who are unaware of the auction pulse and raise awareness to an amazing cause.

Interview with DK Haas, artist and Arts Program Coordinator at Arts for Aids:

MJ: Are all artists’ donated local, established, and/or deceased?  Do you get a variation of all of the above, or are some excluded?

DK: “Most are local and many are established. We feature works from people in New York and LA, Kentucky and Oregon. This year we have works by Jock SturgesGreg Gossel, Hung Liu, and Tim Yankosky all very established. We also feature work from emerging artists like Judith KlainBianca Levan and Colette Hannahan, who are all emerging artists. We have a piece from the estate ofJeffery Ketcham who passed away as a result of complications from AIDS.”

MJ: If some of the artwork is donated and the artist is deceased, how do you price such work, (if applicable)?  If you ever work with donations of deceased artists, are they primarily from galleries, private families trying to raise money for certain expenses from AIDS related expenses, or are they just donors who believe in the cause and wish to remain nameless?  If any of these apply, please explain the breakdown of wishful contributions, and the percentage of contributions that go into Bay Area programs, and which you believe you can discuss under such a public platform such as this (that receive these funds), for those who wish to contribute?

DK: “We do not price work, but rather the artists, galleries or collectors who donate set the price. The piece we have from a deceased artist, Jeffery Ketcham, the price was set by the estate of the artist, but the family agreed to have the opening bid much lower as they would  like to contribute to Alliance Health Project, the beneficiary of Art for AIDS, and to see the piece go to an eager collector. We generally don’t sell items for more than a few thousand dollars at our auction.”

MJ: What is the biggest hurdle with artists donating?  What would you say if you had a voice to educate all of those artists who wish to donate, but have never donated to an auction before?

DK: “I speak as both an artist and one of the organizers of Art for AIDS and I can say the biggest hurdle is getting the piece to the people who want to sell it at auction. My intentions are to give, but time and energy become barriers. As an organizer we have little problem getting commitments from artists and getting the pieces into the office often takes many reminders. We also use an online database that the artists fill out themselves, filling out the form can be a huge barrier, I am speaking as an artist, now.

When we are recruiting new artists I tell them that Art for AIDS has a website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook page, and they will be promoted heavily. I also tell them that this is an opportunity to get their work in front of collectors. I also tell them that Alliance Health Project provided mental health care to the HIV and LGBTQ community and has been doing this important work for over 32 years. Art for AIDS provides critical funds for our clients to receive HIV testing, counseling and care in our mental health clinic. Also, We also take extraordinary care of the art. We have a room that is built into our office to store it away from light, works are carefully handled and wrapped and we have a sponsor who professionally moves the art to and from venue, Gander and White.”

MJ: Do you find that many local galleries, who have exclusive contracts with certain artists, fight you with the donations beginning price? Most established artists who have exclusive contracts, are not allowed to sell their work for a lesser amount than what galleries set to sell said artists’ work at, do you work with them in the reduction of the price?  Are there certain galleries that work alongside auctions such as yours, that you would recommend for established artists who are interested in donating but don’t know much about which auctions are most ideal to donate to, and you would love to work with them?

DK: “We have great relationships with artists and galleries. Galleries tend to have higher prices than artists and that is the way the market is set up, we don’t set prices, they do. All bids start at 1/3 of retail unless otherwise requested (usually lower).”

MJ: What price range percentage sells and what percentage goes to the charity vs. any to the artist?   I hate to identify art as a price range, as all established artists vary due to contracts, and/or dedication to the cause, and availability due to existing or upcoming shows, but what is your strongest mid-range price that people buy at, typically?

DK: “All art is 100% donated. We know there is a trend to give artist a percentage, we don’t have the infrastructure to pay the artists. All of our food and wine and alcohol is also donated.”

MJ: Is it 100% donation for the artist, does the artist receive anything monetary, even if it was sold to the highest bidder?

DK: “No, each piece is sold to the highest bidder.”

MJ: Does anyone/major corporation match the contributions?

DK: “We have sponsors here:

MJ:  Does the artist receive the tax write off, or does the auction?  Does the artist for the highest end-received price, get a prize of some sort, besides the non-tangible?

DK: “Personally, my last two accountants have deducted the amount my piece sold for at auction from my taxes. The rule they say, if your piece receives a market value at auction, that is the amount you can deduct. If I were to donate my piece to a non-profit to hang on their walls, I can only deduct materials. A lot of accountants interpret tax laws differently.”

MJ:  How do you decide your jury every year?  I can’t see artists doing background checks.  How many jurors decide which is picked and which comes first?

DK: “Actually, artists are interested in who is on the jury. The jury is a critical part of the process and having critics, gallerists, artists, collectors and art consultants on the jury is why so many artists are submitting. Our jury meets in one room and looks at the actual pieces of art. This makes for lively discussion, fruitful decision making, and an artist has the opportunity to have their work in front of very influential people. We add jury members each year and also have jurors who have served on the Art for AIDS jury for a decade or more. See

MJ: How many attendees does the Art for AIDS auction event have every year?  I see by your online website, that you are already accepting offers for the works offered.  Do you get many people who buy the works ahead of time?

DK: “We have between 700 and 800 guests. We do accept absentee bids in advance, and we will sell pieces at the Buy it Now price which is 30% above retail. Johnny Botts piece already sold this year!”

MJ: Is this a silent auction? Also, what do you do with the art if it doesn’t sell, or does this ever happen?

DK: “Live and Silent 23 pieces in LIVE and 163 in silent. Total is 186 pieces, each done by a separate artist. We have sections, photography, mixed media and sculpture, drawings and prints, and paintings. The jury decides which art that will be picked for the LIVE auction. Unfortunately, as much as we would like to have 60 pieces in the LIVE auction, we don’t want the event to go all night. Sometimes pieces don’t sell, but this isn’t a reflection of the art or artist per se.”

MJ:  I believe this auction is successful amongst its piers due to the mutual support to the visual arts and dedication to the cause, but does the Art for AIDS auction offer a free ticket for the artists who donate and are selected?

DK: “Each artist gets a free ticket into the event with one guest pass entry. In fact, the artists are the majority of the buyers! It is a great opportunity for some to purchase art at a fair deal and for a good cause.”

When: Friday Sept. 16th, 2016

VIP Doors at 5:30 p.m.

General Admission 6 p.m.

Where: 135 Fourth St., (Metreon), San Francisco, CA

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Marilyn Jones - MarilynSF

Marilyn Jones - MarilynSF

Marilyn Jones is an independent curator and worked for Blackbird Bar for 2 years as their sole curator and at the former Triple Crown Night Club, now called Rebel. Graduated from SFSU in 2001 with BA in Art History, worked at Vorpal Gallery and Weinstein Gallery as an office monkey, and Franklin Bowles Art Gallery as an Art Consultant.