[fusion_text]Situated in the Lower East Side’s creative nucleus, WhiteBox is a unique space that functions at once as a non-profit organization and a contemporary art space, blending elements of activism, culture, and the avant-garde. If there was one event to encapsulate this diverse mission, it would be without doubt WhiteBox’s annual Spring Benefit Art Auction that transpired on the rainy evening of June 23rd.
For the third year in a row, WhiteBox partnered with the Richard J. Massey Foundation to present their Arts and Humanities Award to an artist who has engaged society on levels beyond museum walls, raising important and controversial issues in our contemporary politics. Past recipients are Ai Weiwei and Martha Wilson, who passed the torch to this year’s honoree: performance artist Karen Finley. Finley is known best for her provocative theatrical pieces but has not been bound to one medium in her long and diverse exploration of such charged themes as free speech, sexual abuse, AIDS, and the female body. As she received her award, which was a specially commissioned piece by Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Finley, however, spoke not of herself or her art, but thanked profusely WhiteBox and its staff for their continued endeavors in the non-profit art space.
Of course, such endeavors could not be continued without the generous aid of the art community. The evening’s silent and live auction helped raise the necessary funds for WhiteBox’s current and future programming. The majority of the art up for live bidding was graciously donated by past exhibitors and residents; WhiteBox founder and director himself Juan Puntes admitted to parting with a work from his own personal collection for the greater benefit of the space. WhiteBox also coupled with artnet’s burgeoning online auction platform to offer 24 pieces to remote buyers through the end of the month. The roster of participating artists included Louise Fishman, John Cale, Ivan Navarro, William Coupon, Ron Galella, David Gamble, Eduardo Gil, Leon Golub, Roberto Juarez, Komar & Melamid, Xu Bing, The Blue Noses, Anton Perich, Andres Serrano, GT Pellizzi, Lawrence Weiner and further on.
Interspersed with the evening’s fundraising and commemoration were the works of the current exhibit The Last Party, a multi-disciplinary group show curated by writer, critic, and New York nightlife maven Anthony Haden-Guest. The exhibition was re-arranged to allow for Tuesday’s event, but the programs were not wholly separate as a number of the themed works have a place in the online auction. Finley also closed her tribute on the playful promise of an exclusive performance piece for The Last Party, in which she would likely channel old club spirits.
As the evening came full circle and the last raffle winner was announced, some works were regrettably left unbid on, on the main wall. Neither Puntes nor the auction curator and host Kevin Alexander were too troubled however, as the evening was otherwise a success in perpetuating WhiteBox’s mission of non-commercial and humanistic engagement within contemporary art and contemporary society.
Writing by Lisa Marsova
Photographs by Jamie Martinez
The WhiteBox Benefit Art Auction is live for bidding on artnet through June 30.
The Last Party (The Influence of New York’s Club Culture: Mid 70s – Early 90s) is on view at WhiteBox, 329 Broome St., till August 23.