It’s Saturday night and I am standing inside the Santa Monica Museum of Art moments before the countdown for their INCOGNITO fundraiser. At the end of the countdown, art lovers will start sprinting into the gallery towards the 10 x 10 pieces hanging on the walls and snatch the little tag underneath the artwork they must have. There are 700+ works (signed on the back – you don’t know who created the piece until you pay) and for $350 you may walk (okay, run) out with a Ruscha, Baldessari, Baseman, or Opie.
This year, I find myself I hugging the wall with artist Ed Moses while the museum’s Exec Director Elsa Longhauser counts backwards from ten. “That’s one I did five down. A little line drawing,” he says. I looked over, counted five over then watch the swirl of humanity come bursting into the gallery. The first gal in the door strategically grabs six tags in a matter of moments—all in my vicinity. I keep my eye on the work Moses said was his. Everything around it goes in the blink of an eye. The room is completely full now and someone casually walks over, sticks their hand through the throng of people crowding the wall and plucks the numbered button from under Moses’s drawing. When they go to pay, they are going to get a surprise. Sure, savvy art dealers research and research before this yearly event (and attend the PRECOGNITIO gala a few days earlier for a sneak peek), but most folks I know that attend the event go with their gut. #7 on the museum’s Buying Guide for the night even says “Trust Your Instincts.”
At the after-do there were long lines for sliders and tacos but the drinks flowed. The place was full of fun folks like Moses, Mindy Kaling, Gary Baseman and Edoardo Ponti. People mingled and chatted while waiting for their purchases and the big reveal as to who created their artwork—it could be someone established, could be an up and comer, could be a notable around town. It’s a little Vegas, a lot of gorgeous art and a chaotic, joyful way to spend an evening. Plus you walk away with something you will keep forever…well…unless you’re an art dealer and someone makes you a better offer.
Photographs by Garrett Davis / Capture Imaging