Saturday, September 23, 2006

the lottery

Do you remember that staple of junior high English class, Shirley Jackson's The Lottery? I felt a little like I'd stepped into that story the other night, gathering with the potential 'winners' at a lovely evening spot in the centre of the city to drink wine, eat hors d'oeuvres, view artwork and listen to soothing classical guitar music while chatting with other art lovers. OK, unlike in the short story I wasn't stoned to death, but in some ways it felt like Art herself was (and you thought Art was a man's name).

Thursday evening was the Federation of Canadian Artists' annual fundraising shindig Paintings, By Numbers. I was lucky to be invited to donate a painting this year, as members without signature status are rare at such events. Though the artist must donate a painting and gets nothing but a glass of wine and a pat on the back in return, the exposure to potential art buyers is awesome.

The FCA is a venerable institution, one of its first leaders being a grandpappy of Canadian art, Lawren Harris. And while it may once have been the leading edge of art in Canada, now it's mostly a comfortable place to get good quality art from the successful and conservative Canadian art establishment. Surprises and controversy are in decidedly short supply. So, apparently, are people under 50 -- both artists and art lovers. I felt positively adolescent.

The lottery happens like this: 60 artists each donate a painting worth $500 or more. Then 60 numbered tickets are sold for $500 each. On the evening of the gala event the ticket holders, artists and a guest each are invited to attend and the numbered tickets are drawn in turn by some local celeb (Deejay Clay St Thomas did the honours). Everyone wants to be first, of course, both ticket holders and artists. There are many factors that come into play when it comes to choice: artist's reputation is right up there because you want good value for your money (and it is -- there probably weren't any paintings worth less than $1000), but personal choice takes precedence. Because of that, any one of the top 20 or so that were chosen on Thursday could have been chosen first -- it's simply the luck of the draw. After that it gets a little trickier. Nobody wants to be chosen last.

I must say that I was pretty surprised that with virtually no exceptions, the most conservative, 'safe' paintings went first. It made me feel a little despairing of my future as an artist who can both take creative risks and make a living. My own favourite painting, by Barbara Younger, was the 57th painting chosen, 'beaten' soundly by paintings by much more famous painters, even ones who donated something small and forgotten from the back room. While making the rounds I eavesdropped on one top-selling artist saying to the people who'd chosen his painting, "Come to my exhibition at the Hoity-Toity Emporium next month and you'll see what my work is really worth." My dentures nearly dropped out of my head.
Inclusion by Barbara Younger AFCA

At the end of the day I'm glad I went. I met a lovely, retired couple (they were at our table) whose painting choice was excellent, and I got a front row view into the whole psychology and politics behind the purchasing of artwork. I left wiser -- and definitely older -- than when I walked in.

Quiet Anchorage by Barrie Chadwick AFCA chosen 8th


Blogger tlc illustration said...

That would be incredibly nerve-wracking! I'm glad you weren't stoned or eaten alive. Were you satisfied with the 'placement' of your painting overall? (Did you post earlier about which one you donated? can't remember). Sounds like you are expanding and doing very brave and boundry-pushing things. Good for you.

23/9/06 10:07 p.m.  
Blogger Within Without said...

Yeah, do tell: which painting? Inquiring minds want to know...or see.

23/9/06 10:32 p.m.  
Blogger kj said...

i loved reading and learning about this. which painting? i have to ask also.

what delightful intrigue you've started...


23/9/06 10:39 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Tsk tsk. You just had to follow the links! This was a test; you all fail! :)

Check mid-March for the "triptych" and "paintings by numbers" posts. failing that, check out the home page of my website or the link to the exhibition ("Paintings, by Numbers") in the body of the post. If you still can't see it then you're sent to remedial blogging with a dunce cap! :)

Mine was chosen 53rd. Fortunately the couple (younger than about 95% of the crowd) loved it.

24/9/06 8:18 a.m.  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

I was coming back just now to give everyone heck for not following the links.
I'm assuming everyone was too hung over from last night to spend the required amount of time to fully appreciate this great post.
And that story, the lottery...what a haunting tale. I actually saw the short film before I read it. What a thriller in a Hitchcock kind of way. I thought it was a Ray Bradbury story. Who knew? I guess you did. :)

24/9/06 8:54 a.m.  
Blogger Within Without said...

OK, I've spent my time in the corner, can I remove my dunce hat now?

Immediately found Triptych once I clicked on the appropriate link (duh) but also went back to mid-March.

You said in mid-March that you felt the third image was weak. Did you change it?

A beautiful work, Andrea. Glad it ended up with a couple who will love it.

24/9/06 9:59 a.m.  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

They got 3 prizes for the price of 1, the lucky things.

24/9/06 3:18 p.m.  
Blogger carla said...

That sounds like quite an event, with excellent people watching on so many levels. It's great that your triptych (love it:>)found a home with that young couple...I am sure it will be something special that they will always be so happy to have.

24/9/06 4:27 p.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

We have those kind of auctions here and they are nerve racking. I get a knot in my stomach each and every time.
One year after going through almost most of the paintings my had not been chosen yet. I got discouraged and left. I shouldn't have because later that night i got an email from the gentleman who got my painting. He told me how he sat there all nerves because it was my painting he wanted. It was a painting with a John F Kennedy speach on it. he was from the Boston area and it meant a lot to him. I did the piece after JFK Jr died in the plane.
Well what I am trying to say is the pieces always end up going to the person who admires it the most. Even if it is last.

24/9/06 4:54 p.m.  
Blogger kj said...

ooh, now i know: it is a piece i adore. i'm happy for somebody.

my time will come.....!

24/9/06 5:46 p.m.  
Blogger susan said...

those things do wrack nerves and well they are always for a "good cause" and "good exposure" ... but as toni so wisely said, people who get their pieces they want no matter where in line they are -- AND quite frankly, we artists are "dying from that type of exposure"
i limit my giving to one artwork a year and find that people who got a lot of my work more affordably at auctions and the like, will have to come to buy it now for regular price. we give cash instead. ok, i know i sound sour, but it can really ilk me when artists are always asked to give, not the dentists for free crowns or lawyers for free litigations... get me drift? lol ok, i'm done!

24/9/06 7:12 p.m.  
Blogger Jana Bouc said...

The triptych is stunning and they are lucky people to have won it. It was in good company though--there were many very nice (if safe) pieces. It sounds like you had a reasonably good time even though it was a challenging evening. For me, I don't know which would be worse, giving away a painting, sitting through an evening of having to be well-behaved around a bunch of older wealthy donors, or waiting to see if your painting would be chosen.

24/9/06 11:58 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Brian: I didn'tnow there was a short film made form it! Where can I find it? (And thanks for the backup:)

WW: Thanks for the vote of confidence. These types of events tend to take it out of you. I never did change the final panel; just gave up and moved on.

Cheerypie (good typo): I'm glad they ended up with three because I don't frame mine due to their contemporary nature. There were tiny paintings there with HUGE elaborate frames.

Carla: People watching would've been easier if it hadn't been so dark!... :)

Toni: It does appear to be the luck of the draw, that's for sure. If I'd been a ticket purchaser I'd have probably ended up with the one I wanted, too.

KJ: Thank you!

Susan: I agree -- it's like artists are supposed to have a bottomless pit of generosity. I also get miffed because people seem to equate the value of art with the cost of supplies and time for that single item. Give me an hour and I'll explain what it costs to make art...

Jana: It was alearning experience on many levels so definitely valuable.

25/9/06 7:06 a.m.  
Blogger tiffinix said...

Oh how lucky that couple was to walk out of there with your gorgeous triptych! What a fascinating evening it sure sounded like! So bizarre but still very cool!

1/10/06 5:37 p.m.  

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