For Art's Sake - It's a free for all

ATLart05 creates an art frenzy with its freewheeling events

Until the annual Art Papers Auction, Feb. 5 (7-10 p.m.) is staged in an airplane hangar, no space may be commodious enough to accommodate this annual paradox: an event where art is fought over tooth and nail and vast sums of money are spent.

Where are these people frantically dropping mad cash the rest of the year?

Are locals just cheap, clamoring for the Filene's Basement approach to art, where it's only enticing if it's on sale?

Who knows what inspires the feeding frenzy. But there's no denying that every year the auction packs them in, creating the unsightly spectacle of deal-crazed buyers going primate over a small Kojo Griffin drawing. Just a little caveat emptor: Artists generally don't donate their best work. Dig?

This year's auction will take place at the suitably gargantuan Mason Murer Gallery, which has the dimensions of an indoor flea market, and should be roomy enough to keep ravenous art-goers from fogging up your glasses with their deal-crazed breath.

The auction is the grand finale and cherry on the effervescent art soda pop, ATLart[05], Jan. 26-Feb. 6, a coordinated event between 28 galleries and four museums in Atlanta.

The event is aimed at hooking up the often balkanized factions of the city's art scene: You know, the Bill Hallman set at Lowe Gallery, and the thrift store set at Eyedrum. Every fall, at least the event marketers hope, the barriers of taste and cash will fall and everyone will remember why they're all in this crazy business.

Because they failed math.

I mean, because they love art.

I, for one, am very excited to see what kind of chaos and inspiration result when galleries give their space over to the kiddies for ART START: Children's Day in AGA Galleries Feb. 5. Parents may want to have their bail money ready: One of the kid-friendly events is being staged at the clearly very ambitious Vespermann Glass Gallery where children will be led through an art project featuring glass, glue and cups.

At Matre Gallery, artist Jonathan Fenske, who incorporates a variety of vintage Fisher-Price toys into his beguiling paintings, will have a children's art studio set up to coach budding retro-conceptualists in how to best honor their childhood objets d'Mattel.

On Jan. 29, a very different, grown-up, vibe will dominate the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center's What Business Are You In?, a group show featuring big names like New York artists Adrian Piper and Andrea Fraser, the conceptualist who in 2004 famously videotaped herself having sex with a collector (who paid $20,000 for the privilege).

If you live in Atlanta, you probably know about crack houses. But while homes given over to copious illegal drug use are legion, less common are homes given over to art. As a kind of teaching tool and living-by-example, ATLart[05] has created an Art House in which designers will demonstrate that you can incorporate fine art into a domestic space featuring 12-foot ceilings and a three-story spiral staircase. The American Society of Interior Designers will commandeer a spanking new Buckhead mansion in West Paces Park and teach it a thing or two about culture. The guinea pig art house will be open to the public for the run of ATLart[05].

Dana Castle and Michele DeHaven open a swank Tiffany blue gift box containing a beautifully wrapped roll of toilet paper.Convincing upscale hotels and restaurants that they need to stock a better brand of toilet paper has been just one of the duo's varied tasks over the years as directors of their own marketing and design firm, Function. Dana and Michele have a long history of representing various products for the paper and building industry in their slick, high-design brochures and packaging.

And if the pair were able to convince their clients that toilet paper is glamorous, then they sure as hell should be able to sell some art.

Michele and Dana are stylish, sassy, self-made women who decided to take advantage of some mega-wall space and a shared love of art when they recently moved their business to a new, 9,600-square-foot studio on Decatur's East Howard Avenue. They have given a large chunk of their space over to a spectacular gallery visible from the street.

"We wanted to do something that would give back to the creative community," says Dana.

Michele agrees, "We love art." So much so, that both of their homes runneth over with the stuff.

Essence of Being featuring Brenda Fox and Jeff Kromer, will be on display Jan. 28 to March 10 and seems to hem close to the slightly romantic, femme vibe of the Function space. In the former warehouse, industrial-chic poured concrete floors and a sheet metal reception desk share quarters with plush oriental rugs and a chalkboard for brainstorming sessions housed in a massive gilt frame.

Michele and Dana have programmed their exhibitions through September with a variety of artists they have come across on business trips across the country, but will also be considering local artists.


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