Werk of Art

The annual GLAAD Art Auction celebrates the art world’s contribution to LGBT visibility.
November 13, 2013
Above: the GLAAD Art Auction in 2012
Each year, GLAAD celebrates the art world’s power to convey the stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people with its annual Art Auction, bringing together art lovers with a social conscience for a night of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, thought-provoking entertainment and, of course, the opportunity to bid on some stunning works of art. “It’s an event that effects change through the celebration of art, artists and the creative world that we as an LGBTQ community not only appreciate, but to which we so greatly contribute,” says GLAAD’s planning committee chair, James Kleeman.
While the organization is most notable these days for its political advocacy and its efforts to combat homophobia in pop culture—holding both Washington and Hollywood accountable for their portrayals of the gay community—the Art Auction cuts to the heart of GLAAD’s overarching mission according to national spokesperson and strategic giving officer Omar Sharif, Jr. “From our start in 1985 in the Village, GLAAD has been fueled by the concept that words and images matter. That includes art of every medium, including those represented at the Art Auction.”
Adrienne Cook, curator of this year’s GLAAD Art Auction, points out that great works of art can have the same sort of impact on people as other types of media. “What people see in the media—on TV and in film, in the news, online, and through other channels of media like telenovelas, comic books and video games—has a huge impact in shaping how they view the world,” she says. “Many of those images are results of GLAAD’s culture-changing work. Support for LGBT equality continues to rise as people get to know LGBT people and their stories. Much of that happens through media images. Art can play a role in this effort by inspiring and giving the viewer new ways of looking at the world.”
The true breadth of contemporary art, in all its permutations, will be on display at this year’s Art Auction on November 18 at the Metropolitan Pavilion’s fifth-floor space, The Level. The event will feature historical and experimental film projections, a curated selection of music by DJ RuBot and Russian artist David Paul Kay’s human art installations. 
Of course, the highlight of the evening is the annual silent art auction itself, proceeds from which benefit GLAAD’s LGBT advocacy work throughout the year. 
Cook, who earned a Master’s in Art History, Theory and Criticism at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, worked with the Art Auction’s selection committee to choose pieces that tell the story of the contemporary gay and lesbian experience. Despite so many monumental advances in gay rights taking place over the last several years, she wasn’t concerned with developing a particular unifying theme with the selection. “I was more interested in the ways the different artists and pieces interacted with each other when placed together,” Cook says. “There are, of course, themes that emerge and much of the work is, of course, very rooted in our current cultural climate, but that wasn’t at the heart of my process.”
There are pieces by Alex Katz, Asher Levine, Andrea Amy Marshall and Eric Parnes that Cook thinks will be highlights of the auction. But for her it’s difficult to choose a favorite. “I really view the auction as a whole, and when that whole includes Robert Longo, Herb Ritts, Salvador Dali, Malan Breton, Bambi and Faile, it’s just not possible.”
Like everything GLAAD does, the Art Auction is, above all, about amplifying gay voices. “So often, LGBT people, their work, their stories and their perspectives are excluded from media and popular culture,” says Sharif. “This event celebrates artists, be they on the rise or already established in their fields, for their commitment to telling their own stories creatively, beautifully and movingly.” 
GLAAD Art Auction at The Level at Metropolitan Pavilion, 123 W 18th St (btwn Seventh/Eighth Aves), Nov 18 from 6pm–9:30pm; $99. Visit glaad.org for more info.