Among the art world's most glamorous events, benefit auctions lure celebrities and art patrons out for festive evenings of art commerce in support of museums, institutions, and other worthy causes. These soirées regularly make headlines due to major purchases and fancy art-world attendees, but what’s lesser known is that you don’t need to be a whale of a collector to make the most of these occasions. In fact, benefit auctions offer extraordinary opportunities for collectors working with modest budgets to acquire truly first-rate work by major talents—and all in the name of philanthropy.
With one of the summer’s annual tent-pole benefit auctions coming up at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center in the Hamptons, we supply a quartet of reasons why you, too, should pay close attention to the event—and bid on works online through Artspace.
YOU CAN BUY GREAT ART FOR LOW PRICES
For collectors who are still getting their footing in the art market, benefit auctions are the perfect place to shop because the work is offered at lower prices than you would find at galleries or at your typical auction house. This is partially because galleries and artists—from world-famous names to emerging talents—donate the work directly to support the evening’s beneficiary, but also because, for the most part, these functions are tax-exempt. As a result, collectors have the opportunity to snatch up work for a fee well below retail value.
YOU CAN SUPPORT YOUR FAVORITE CHARITABLE CAUSE…
Benefit auctions provide a rare occasion where buying art is a truly selfless, charitable act. Since they are fundraisers, all money earned from sales goes to a cause. Patrons lucky enough to have attended a recent benefit for the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, for example, had the chance to buy works by Rob Pruitt, Raymond Pettibon, and Takashi Murakami, all to support wildlife conservation.
…OR BE A PATRON TO YOUR FAVORITE ART ORGANIZATION
It’s sometimes easy to forget that—despite their soaring architecture, astonishing collections, or famous reputations—museums and other art organizations are not moneymaking operations but nonprofits in need of financial support. As a result, collectors who buy at events like the Watermill Center's summer benefit or legendary art magazine BOMB’s annual gala can adorn their walls with art while simultaneously ensuring that the organizations they’re supporting can continue to bring art to the public.
YOU CAN GET THE INSIDE TRACK ON EMERGING ARTISTS
With the same artists’ names repeatedly appearing in catalogues, the sales at the major commercial auction houses can begin to blur. Benefit art auctions, however, are far friskier, presenting an array of work by known and unknown artists—all filtered through a tough editing process that ensures the work is overall of a very high quality. This enables collectors to discover exciting up-and-coming artists at the same time as the in-crowd, and often the unfamiliar names you see at benefit auctions become ubiquitous stars a few years later—making it a rewarding experience to collect new art that catches your eye.