'Heist' promises a steal on art

Starting Feb. 3, a trove of artwork will be up for grabs at the Laguna Art Museum.

One hundred and eighteen artists — the majority of whom are from California — have donated mostly contemporary pieces, with a few older styles thrown in, for "Art Auction 2014: The Art of the Heist."

Preview week, which allows patrons to review, online or in-person, what's on tap and decide if they'd like to purchase anything, ends with the annual fundraiser Feb. 8.

The event starts at 6 p.m., with the action-packed live auction at 8 p.m. led by Christie's auctioneer Charlie Adamski. Bidding begins at 50% of each item's value.

"The museum is a nonprofit, and we depend on charitable giving to do almost everything we do," said the museum's executive director, Malcolm Warner. "In the case of the auction, we benefit from the generosity of the artists and others who give us the works of art — and from the buyers too. They know that buying something is a win-win for them and us."

This year, longtime contributors Kim Abeles, Don Bachardy, Tony DeLap, Jimi Gleason, Joe Goode and others will be joined by first-timers including Don Suggs, Elizabeth Turk, Shepard Fairey and Steve Roden.

Turk, who as a child went door to door in Eastbluff with a wagon piled high with artwork, can't remember a time when she could bear to do anything other than create. Art, which the sculptor believes should be a part of her local community, helps the 52-year-old Newport Beach resident make sense of her surroundings.

"Malcolm Warner has brought a new excitement, and I want to be part of [that]," said Turk, whose work is called "X-Ray Mandalas: 32 Comb Murex." "It is a small gesture in this regard."

The artwork for the auction is valued between $200 and $35,000. A classic 1972 creation by "Light and Space" artist Laddie John Dill titled "Light Trap" is at the top of the price range, while Los Angeles artist Adam Mars' "I Loved You, Then I Googled You" is priced the lowest.

Although artists determine the cost of their work, buyers don't always shell out what's displayed on the tag — bidding wars can force prices even higher. To Warner, part of the fun is discovering the level of competition that faces each attendee.

The upcoming event, which also includes a silent auction, was inspired by the 1968 movie "The Thomas Crown Affair" and spotlights stylish décor from that era to give the evening a party feel.

"It's a heist in that you can get great art for great prices. It's a steal," Warner remarked.

2013 was the auction's most successful run in 30 years. It attracted 450 guests and netted more than $175,000 for the museum's education and exhibition programs. According to Sarah Strozza, director of special events, the $255,000 gross earnings that year were $73,000 more than those of 2012 and $123,000 more than 2011.

"The best moment for me was when we finished last year's live auction and every single item had been sold," Warner recalled.

Along with interacting with artists, collectors and the museum's curators, guests can enjoy cuisine from local restaurants like Wine Gallery, Side Door, Sabatino's, Sapphire Laguna and Simply Sweet Cakery, cocktails by Tito's Handmade Vodka and beer from Noble Ale Works. Laguna Nursery will provide a floral design, and John Park and Mimi Yoon will perform live.

A public sale will be hosted from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 9, at which time all unsold work will be sold at 50% of its stated value.

When asked what he enjoyed most about the event, Warner replied: "The live auction. What drama!"

If You Go

What: Art Auction 2014: The Art of the Heist

Where: Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach

When: 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 8; preview week is Feb. 3 to 8; post-auction sale is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 9

Cost: $125 for museum members at the Friend Level and above and $150 for nonmembers and members at the Individual and Family Levels; preview week is free

Information: http://www.lagunaartmuseum.org/artauction/ or (949) 494-8971

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