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MOCA auction adds $650,000 to museum coffers, but cuts still loom

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The Museum of Contemporary Art reports that it grossed $650,000 in an auction of works donated by artists to help the museum. Saturday’s ‘Fresh Silent Auction’ drew 1,100 people to the museum’s Geffen Contemporary building and exceeded its goal by $50,000; museum spokeswoman Lyn Winter said that 297 of the 340 works found buyers.

A print by Barbara Kruger (left), ‘Untitled (The War For Me to Become You),’ fetched the top price of $32,000. ‘You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth #2,’ a colorful print by Case Simmons and Andrew Burke, sold for $30,000.

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Other artists whose auctioned work benefited the museum include Doug Aitken, John Baldessari, Mark Flores, Robert Gober, Piero Golia, Ed Ruscha, Lara Schnitger and Andrea Zittel.

The extra cash comes with MOCA expecting to reduce its budget to levels not seen in a decade, including further layoffs after a round of job cuts in January. ‘Every penny counts right now,’ said Winter. She didn’t have figures for the auction’s net earnings, which would subtract the cost of framing the works and other expenses for putting on the event.

MOCA’s annual art auctions typically have been its biggest fundraisers; annual tax returns show that the 2007 auction, held in more flush times, grossed $941,000 and netted $773,000. In odd years, Winter said, the museum follows the ‘Fresh’ format, in which the works tend to be priced at $10,000 or less; the 2005 sale grossed $621,000 and netted $426,000.

In even years, she said, prices range higher, generally above $10,000 per piece, up to $350,000 for the top seller in 2008, when the art sale netted $1.6 million.

-- Mike Boehm


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