The C Magazine Auction is one of Toronto’s essential art events. If you’re looking to build your art collection, get on the pulse of contemporary Canadian art or, at the very least, support a publication that consistently publishes top notch art criticism, stop reading and buy your ticket to the April 12th auction now.
Are you back? Good. In anticipation of the auction, we met with C Foundation’s Chair of the Art Selection Committee Gabrielle Moser to get the inside scoop on what to expect at this year’s event. She told us about surprise bids, which pieces got audible gasps from the committee and why artists donate their work.
Studio Beat: Hi Gabby! What should we know about C Magazine?
Gabrielle Moser: C Magazine is a quarterly publication based in Toronto that focuses on contemporary art and criticism. Then, there’s the C Foundation which is responsible for fundraising to support the magazine, events and programming. We often host lectures, for example. Recently, we held a successful sauna symposium at the Hart House Farm just outside of Toronto.
Studio Beat: What role does the auction play?
The auction is our biggest fundraiser and it generates thirty percent of our annual budget for the magazine and public programs. It’s also meant to be an outreach activity that lets people know we exist and create exposure for the artists we concern ourselves with. The focus is on emerging and mid-career contemporary artists that we’re excited about. We’ve been very luck that those people have been very generous in giving us work for the auction. I think it’s because they understand the value and purpose of C.
Studio Beat: Would you recommend the auction for first time art buyers?
Yes, of course. A lot of people come and it’s their first time at a live auction, it’s their first time purchasing art and I think it’s largely because buying a ticket isn’t a huge financial investment. For $100, you get food and drinks all night. Then, there’s a lot of artworks that are priced below $1,000 and the bidding starts at 50% of market value. It’s easy to make that impulse purchase at an action. Funny things happen. We had really great installation staff last year and one of the guys got really excited and bid on a bunch of work. He had never bought work before. Those kind of stories are a signal of the event’s success.
Studio Beat: What if you’re going and not buying art?
No problem. The auction is a good chance to get an overview of Canadian contemporary art. You can get a sense of how people choose work to purchase and see individual artist practices. Even if you’re not planing on buying art, we offer the chance for the first 50 ticket buyers to take home an artist multiple for free. This year, the art piece is a drinking vessel by Jimmy Limit.
Derek Sullivan, After the life for the most part (f), 2014
James Gardner, Sing Into My Mouth, 2014
Dana Claxton, AIM #2, 2010
Jason de Haan, Groper, 2014
Geoffrey James, Visitors Room KP,
Studio Beat: For an artist, what is the benefit of donating a piece?
We rely on the goodwill and generosity of these good folks. I’m always pleasantly astonished by how many people are willing to give us work each year. Some of the benefits we provide include a print catalogue of the show, a complimentary ticket to the auction, subscription to the magazine and 25% of the work’s hammer price. Some artists choose to donate that 25% back to the magazine but some of them take it, or they can opt for a charitable tax receipt. I think a lot of the artists are excited to be showing with peers that they identify with and get access to a different group of buyers.
Studio Beat: Can artists submit work?
It’s not open submission, it’s by invitation. We reach out to specific artists, and sometimes gallerists, to see if they’re interested in donating. They give us a few options of work they can donate and the committee selects from those options. There’s a lot of emailing and studio visits and outreach.
Studio Beat: From your perspective, what’s going on right now in Canadian contemporary art?
I don’t see any one dominant theme, but there are a couple of conversations that are happening in the work that’s been donated. One is quite literary, about books and reading practices. There’s a great Derek Sullivan silkscreen print where he’s gone through his bookshelf and made a collage from different book covers. Then, there’s a piece by Dave Dyment where he stacked up books with similar titles and it reads like a conceptual art poem. A beautiful work by Lois Andison has a lot of word play in it. I definitely see interest in reading practices and text.
There’s also a return to materiality that I really like. It’s a move away from really minimalist conceptual art to gooey thick paint. The big reveal works we showed to the committee, where there were audible gasps in the rooms, fit into this category. There’s a fantastic James Gardner painting that took weeks to dry and it’s gorgeous. It’s messy and great. VSVSVS also gave us a sculpture that’s kind of messy and tactile. Jason de Haan, who’s work I’ve always loved, has been making these sculptures from meteorites that he carves into the shape of a finger. If you buy the work, you agree to carry it with you at all times. It’s about how art moves as objects throughout the world, and I think that’s great.
Studio Beat: Do you want to go on record with any hot bids?
I have favourites, but I can never predict which ones are going to be hot bids. Last year, Tammi Campbell gave us a gorgeous, I mean I think all her work is gorgeous, but a particularly gorgeous masking tape piece that went from almost three times the commercial market value. I had no idea other people would love it as much as I did. This year, we have some beautiful big lots including Geoffrey James’ print from his Inside Kingston Penitentiary series. We have a couple of past Sobey Art Award winners including Duane Linklater. Dana Claxton gave us a literally large piece that I’m excited to see. I know there’s some absentee bids from the board members already. Some things are such a steal!
The C Magazine Contemporary Art Auction is held at Division Gallery on April 12th. Click here for more information.