Five Myles Benefit Show

Benefit Show at Five Myles, May 19

In the evening of May 19, I walked over to Five Myles Gallery to cover a benefit show that was going on marking the 20th anniversary of the gallery. Eighty artist had contributed a single work each to help Hanne raise money for her gallery. My first thought was that Hanne has made many friends over the years and those friends wish her well. The way Hanne was going to sell these works was not through a nerve-wracking auction, but through the sale of tickets. Each ticket sold for $250 and entitled the purchasers to make a list of preferred works. If your ticket was drawn early and your picture was not yet sold, then you would get your first choice. If you had a later drawing you might have to settle for a second, third, or fourth choice. All the works were assigned equal value, and collectors had to take the view that any of several would be good to get. This made for a relaxed fun atmosphere, one enhanced by a sculpture in soft cloth of a woman sitting on a swing hanging from the ceiling. At a certain point this sculpture was put into action. She swung back and forth and even managed to stand up and wave at the audience. Everyone was laughing and entranced. There was bit of a carnival feeling to the proceedings. Of the buyers I talked to, all said they would be happy to get anything on their lists. One told me, “I am only marking down the numbers of pictures that I would like to own.” From what I could tell, all the buyers were going to be happy.

I recognized a neighbor of mine named Dan. He told me he had four pictures he was interested in – one by Jack Ceglic 79, Gwen Thomas 60, Judith Murray 41, and one by an artist named Chang for whom I lost my notes. It turned out Dan had bought two tickets, one for himself and another for his wife, who was not present. When the drawing started, two of his pictures were taken quickly -- the large black and white head of a man created by Ceglic and the work by Gwenn Thomas, a nice mixture of summer colors. Losing the Ceglic was not a surprise; many people told me it was their first choice, someone said it could be resold for $7,000. However, Dan did get the picture by Murray, a lovely work of pastel stokes making a kind of landscape and also the Chang. He was elated and in the morning I saw him with his wife and she was delighted too.

Another buyer I met was Lorraine; she is a close friend of Sara Erentthal, who does street art. Lorraine had put in for a simple line drawing of two matching women and word in the lower right in Hindi or Sanskrit that Erenthal had done. I had met Erenthal a few weeks before the show; she was putting up one of her works nearby the gallery. I had hoped to follow her through the whole process but we never managed to get in touch. Lorraine's ticket was the sixth picked and she got the Erenthal. They were both delighted. Erenthal told me that her street art is ephemeral – weather and people can damage or deface it. The work she put up near the gallery was destroyed by someone trying to peel it off the wall. Thus, she was glad to have a work of hers owned by a friend. She loves street art, but she also does gallery shows and one kind of art feeds on the other in odd ways. She is very aware of the history of Keith Haring, a street artist who came to have a retrospective of his work in the Brooklyn Museum after his death. And even greater than Haring in terms impact and success is the great Banksy. It strange that street art has a growing history and legacy. Basquiat started in the streets and even before his early death was claiming top prices in the galleries and extravagant critical acclaim. The energy from the street can revitalize the complacent art world, that, like Hollywood, always tends to play it safe.

Having heard from some buyers, I then introduced myself to the event photographer Sachiyo Takhashi, whose English was imperfect and whose temperament was a bit reticent. I helped link her up with artists who were glad to have their pictures taken with the works they had created. Sachiyo took pictures of Barbara Hatfield 74, Ceaphus sTubbs 57, Ed Shalala 55, and Nancy Marten 37. I had met Ed at a show last year at Five Myles where he displayed pictures of kite strings having fallen in parks around New York City, and he introduced me to Nancy. Ed was enthusiastic about the show; he was proud of the work he had contributed and happy to support Hanne who had put on a show for him

As the evening went on, some art works remained on the wall and the artists who had made them seemed to be getting a bit nervous. They had wanted to help Hanne and did not want to be rejected by the buyers. However, Ceaphus Stubbs and Barbara Hatfield were chosen later in the evening and, once chosen, both of them were beaming. Stubbs did a very colorful piece of assembled pictures and found items, and Hatfield had two sharp defined lines, one on the left and the other horizontal through the middle of the work and then on the horizontal line there was curly black drawing. I was sure Stubbs was Caribbean but it turns out he comes from New Jersey. I thought Hatfield might owe something to Saul Steinberg, but didn't dare to ask.

I would say that everyone came out of the evening feeling happy. Hanne made about $20,000 minus costs. She showed how extensive her connections are in the art world. The artists and the collectors were pleased. The collectors got at least eighty of their first choices or some other choice, but they were all choices they made. The artists sold their works affirming their value and also did something generous for Hanne who has been helping them for years. Even the photographer took lots of pictures that Hanne will be able to publish and look at in the years to come to remember this marvelous evening.

– John DeWind

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