Last week, Electronic Arts Intermix invited artists and supporters to its home on West 22nd Street in Manhattan for its benefit art auction—the first in the nonprofit organization’s 47-year history. Inside, there were no rostrums to perch elbows. No intimidating swarms of hungry art collectors. Instead, what greeted those exiting the elevator on EAI’s fifth floor could be likened to that rare bird of a family reunion: one in which everybody simply likes everybody.
The stated purpose of the evening—to help raise funds to support the creation, preservation, distribution and presentation of moving image art—also serves as a structural pillar for the nonprofit organization. Since Howard Wise founded EAI in 1971 as a resource for video artists, its archive has grown to house more than 3,800 works of media art.
“EAI has been the most consistent relationship in my life,” said conceptual artist Cheryl Donegan, wearing a slash of green among the predominating palette of black attire. “I found that EAI was able to represent the work, hold on to the work, provide the conditions needed to maintain the work through a series of different formats.”
Upstairs in the P.P.O.W. Gallery, 25 works donated by an impressive list of video and new media artists (the complete list below) enveloped the attendees. Donegan gave a storyboard of her video, “PRACTISSE,” as her contribution. “My own husband [Kenneth Goldsmith] was like, Really? You’re giving that? That’s a drawing. That’s the original storyboard,” said Donegan of the piece. “But I felt that the relationship that I have with this particular institution justified giving of oneself a little bit more.”
As the night wore on, luminaries of the video art world navigated the event’s two floors with congenial ease. Barbara Hammer, a pioneer of experimental and lesbian cinema, and visual artist Carolee Schneemann, whose show at MoMA, “Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting,” recently closed, embraced. Bibbe Hansen, wearing black sunglasses, stood next to her donated work, “Collar #2,” as a young woman approached her to say how much she loved the piece. By the time that EAI’s executive director, Lori Zippay, made her way to the middle of the gallery to give her closing toast, the crowd hushed and shaped itself into a horseshoe around her. “For over 47 years,” said Zippay, “EAI has been something of a labor of love.”
In the hallway outside of the gallery, Zippay told me, “EAI is a very artist-driven organization, so the fact that the artists came out with just such generosity and support was just breathtaking to me. It was very moving.” As we spoke, her guests filed past to return to their other homes. “I wanted it to feel as warm and exciting and generous and as gracious as I think the artists were in donating their work.” When I responded that it did, she said, “If you felt that, then it’s been successful.”
ARTWORKS DONATED BY:
C. Spencer Yeh
Top image: Barbara Hammer, left, and Carolee Schneemann at the EAI benefit art auction. Photo by Conrad Ventur.