During the five weeks I spent alone tramping around European cities living out of something the salesman referred to as a “long weekend” pack, I lost weight living on a diet of coffee, cigarettes, bread and cheese, but I found a peculiar nourishment for my soul in the daily works of art I drove myself to see.
What I found was that the more I was moved by a painting or sculpture, the more I wanted it for myself. Standing there in luxurious surroundings, having cadged the student discount rate, I was possessed by avarice; I wanted nothing more than to remove this work to my house and look at it whenever I wanted.
To wake up to Botticelli’s Venus exiting the clamshell, to be talking on the phone while gazing into the garden where David exhibits his awkward gracefulness, to arrive home, turn on the lights and be met with Laocoon struggling with the snakes in the corner. To appreciate Rembrandt over breakfast, Van Gogh while eating a sandwich or brushing my teeth seemed like a greater luxury than anything else I could think of at that time.
While recognizing that my fantasies of art thievery were like something out of a bad novel, I became an observer of security precautions—the Italian museum guards were often asleep on their feet, and I puzzled over the logistics of secretly removing something large. I envied Hitler walking about the Louvre picking out works of art to furnish his mountain house, the Pope who lives amidst such splendor, or even any of the Renaissance princes who may not have had any taste, but had the sense to hire someone to paint their family or decorate their house.
Short of world conquest, or getting a job at the Uffizi—what a sinecure!—the next best thing that you can do is head down to the Art Museum of Missoula’s 29th annual art auction where for once, you can walk home with what is up there on the walls—and they won’t hang you by your feet for it later! There are over 80 works of art that can be bid upon by marking a sheet next to the artwork, or from the privacy of your own computer where high-quality photos of the artwork can be accessed from the Art Museum web site (www.artmissoula.org).
The auction will take place Saturday, Feb. 3 beginning at 5:30. There will be art-making going on in the form of Contemporary Quick Draw, which entails eight local artists sitting right there drawing two models for an hour or so. The artists will select the best life drawings, create a portfolio of their work produced right there and make that an auction item as well. Music will be provided by Beth Lo and David Horgan; there will be entertainment in the person of Beauty Ranger, a gun-toting expert on beauty, and there will be a film short produced by Science Woman and MCAT, which will be what museum curator Steve Glueckert calls “a scientific look at the 25th anniversary of the Art Museum.”
If you’ve checked your math, you’ll notice that the art auction actually predates the museum itself by four years. As the auction was instrumental in providing funds to start the museum, so today is the auction a “very important part of the funding for the Museum,” he explains.
Since 30 percent of the artists have donated 100 percent of the proceeds of the sale of their work to the Art Museum of Missoula (while others generally donate a percentage), and bidding starts at 50 percent of the price that the artist would ask at a gallery, it works out well for everyone. By purchasing a piece of art at the auction you are either supporting a local hungry artist or your local museum, and you can take home something that strikes, moves, or inspires you. And it’s all yours.
Pieces up for bid in The Art Museum of Missoula’s 29th Annual Art Auction are on view in the museum’s Second Floor Galleries through Friday, Feb. 2, when a closing reception will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Gala and auction will be held Saturday, Feb. 3 at 5 p.m. in UM’s University Center Ballroom. For more information, call 728-0447.