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Art with an edge

Art with an edge
Attendees had the opportunity to bid on 87 works in last year’s silent auction at the Laguna Art Museum.
(Photo by Eric Stoner)

The Laguna Art Museum is where the party’s at.

Come 6 p.m. Saturday, the museum, decked out as an underground club, will host a slew of art aficionados at its annual art auction. Titled “Art Auction 2013: California Underground,” the event features more than 100 works by California artists that will adorn the entire main level of the space. Live performances, silent and live auctions, and gastropub fare are part of the evening’s lineup.


“It is a twist on a California contemporary speakeasy,” Director of Special Events Sarah Strozza said. “The idea is to give guests not only a chance to be philanthropic, but a fun and edgy social event as well.”

Initiated in 1982 by the now-defunct Junior Council, this auction is the longest running and most successful tradition at the Laguna Art Museum — a channel through which funds are raised to support exhibition and education programming. Bidding begins at 50% of the artwork’s stated value.


“For me, the best part of the evening is the live auction, this year run by a star auctioneer from Christie’s, Andrea Fiuczynski,” Executive Director Dr. Malcolm Warner said. “It’s the excitement of seeing people put their artistic taste on the line. Plus the psychology of when they start bidding and how far they go. Of course, I’m hoping that on Saturday evening they’ll go far. If you buy something you love, you’ll soon forget all about how much it costs.”

Brenda Bredvik, a 47-year-old painter from Laguna Beach and a staunch supporter of the museum, allows curators to select what they consider the best from a handful of her works. This year, she contributed a 60-by-48-inch oil painting titled “Mist.2,” depicting an early-morning, fog-laden horizon suspended above the ocean.

"[The auction] gives collectors a chance to view works from local artists who they may not have been aware of, as well as possibly getting a very good deal —- all while supporting the museum,” she said. “It’s a win-win.”

This event takes a year to plan — from preview week to gala night — with work beginning close on the heels of the previous year’s auction, said Strozza.


“We target artists, galleries and collectors who can give us work of museum-quality — then within that group those we think we can persuade to donate.” Warner said. “I’m pleased to say that most of them don’t require much persuasion.”

Rather than winding down after the auction, the event will kick into high gear at 9 p.m. with an after party featuring a DJ, dancing, vintage cocktails and a dessert spread by Simply Sweet Cakery.

“Last year, this was the highlight, and people were having so much fun we had to tell them to go home once the event ended,” Strozza said.

For Lindsay Smith-Rosales, executive chef and owner of Nirvana Grille, the 2012 art auction meant quick thinking. Responsible for catering the main course for 350 people, the Laguna Beach native ran out of food when between 450 and 500 of the 600 attendees lined up for a meal. More salad was rustled up on the spot, while pasta was cooked at the restaurant, about 500 yards away from the museum, and rushed to the event.


“I think this is a good time for people that I know, those who support both the restaurant and the museum, to come together,” said Smith-Rosales, who considers it an honor to be able to volunteer her services for the evening. “It’s an opportunity to reconnect with one another and see how funds are raised for the museum, in support of it being here for so long.”

Tobey Moss, the owner of an eponymous Los Angeles-based art gallery, bolstered this year’s auction by donating seven works — three lithographs by Eugene Berman, plus paintings by Helen Lundeberg, Amaranth Roslyn Ehrenhalt, Matsumi Kanemitsu and Werner Drewes.

Being a venue that showcases such artistic stalwarts has its benefits. According to Strozza, the museum earned its highest bid in 2009 when a buyer paid $30,000 for an untitled John Altoon painting priced at $35,000.

While the museum felt the effects of the recession, people continued to make donations, helping it stay profitable. At the last art auction, approximately $200,000 was raised — a 35% increase from 2011 — and the team hopes to surpass that figure this year.

Bryan Mark Taylor, 35, of Lafayette, is a plein air expert whose oil-on-canvas “Laguna Canyon Morning” is up for grabs. A regular participant at the museum’s Plein Air Invitational, Taylor was captivated by visual art when he was only eight. His paintings fuse his love for art with an avid enthusiasm for the outdoors, where he spends time fishing and hiking.

“For me, art is not about making a living; it’s how I approach life,” he said. “Painting is something wherein you work on a canvas, but more than that, you work on yourself. Whether I’m painting or not, my mind is working on these ideas that I find in nature, so it’s a lifestyle as much as anything else.”

Twitter: @RMahbubani

If You Go

What: California Underground

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

When: 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday

Cost: Auction: $125 for museum members at the Friend Level and higher; $150 for non-members and members at the Individual and Family Levels. Afterparty: $40

Information: or (949) 494-8971