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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Now That’s Corporate Support for Living Artists

posted by on March 28 at 18:40 PM

SOIL, Seattle’s oldest artist-run nonprofit gallery, announced today that it has received an unusual and unexpected gift that could be its biggest donation ever: a cache of 26 maritime oil paintings it can put up for sale at auction.

The paintings, given to SOIL from Safeco Insurance’s collection, will be sold through the auction house of Bonham’s & Butterfield’s, said SOIL member artist Randy Wood. They were appraised, he said, at $100,000. While that may or may not be indicative of what they’d bring at auction, of course, SOIL’s operating budget for an entire year is around $40,000, so “either way, it’s a big deal for us,” Wood said. The gallery, financed by an auction, donations, and artist dues, plans to use the money for an endowment that will simply help the doors to stay open, he said.

Jackie Kosak, Safeco art curator, was unavailable for comment this afternoon. In a press statement, she wrote, “With our move to a new headquarters located in downtown Seattle, we took the opportunity to evaluate our art collection in light of our mission to collect the work of emerging and mid-career contemporary artists. … As we considered where to make the donation, we looked for organizations that could store the pieces safely, effectively organize them for auction, and use the proceeds to enrich the Northwest arts scene.”

The gift was a pleasant surprise to SOIL, Wood said: “I guess one of the curators over there was just hip to SOIL. It was pretty crazy.”

The artists, many British, include Edwin Hayes (1819-1904), Frederick James Aldridge (1850-1933), Hugh Boycott-Brown (1909-1990), John Brett (1831-1902), Gustave de Breanski (1856-1898), and W. Ayerst Ingram (1855-1913). Other artists are John DeLacy, Jenny Guo, George E. Hering, D.H. McLean, Arthur J. Meadows, Thomas R. Miles, Ernest Roe, G. Rogers, Clarkson Stanfield, Theodore Weber, William Wilcox, and William H. Williamson. (I’ll admit to never having heard of any of these artists, but several have auction records online.) The press release did not disclose when the paintings came into the Safeco collection, whether all at once or as part of a long-time collecting pattern. Maybe it was a strategy of taking in waterside art for a waterside city?

I can’t help but be reminded by this of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, which is selling off some of its oldest works because of its focus on modern and contemporary art. That decision has raised a firestorm in Buffalo and beyond, and a group of Buffalonians even tried to stop the museum from putting the works up for auction, but they lost. The museum prevailed, and is selling its treasures in order to help pay to support newer art and artists. (A level-headed summary of the action there is here.)

When art disappears from public walls and passes into private living rooms, protests are understandable. And the trend of selling art to protect art institutions seems backwards, if not perverse. But in this case, Safeco is sending privately held, little-if-ever-seen pieces possibly to equally obscure locations—but benefiting, along the way, a public Seattle gallery where living Seattle artists get to experiment in a non-commercial venue. Sorry, Hugh Boycott-Brown, but that sounds like a worthwhile exchange to me.

Frederick James Aldridge.JPG
Frederick James Aldridge’s Crabbers Returning in a Squall will be up for sale to benefit SOIL.

RSS icon Comments


Do you really think stranger readers are interested in quality art? Your efforts are to be commended, but would probably receive a more appreciative audience in another publication. Can you believe SOIL started in that dank sloping garage? or were they even more 'underground' before that?

Posted by daniel | March 28, 2007 6:55 PM

aaaarrrrrggggh, me maties, now that's what me be callin' by the name of fine art, though they could be usin' a few more wenches in 'em.

I guess the gallery has such a small budget because they don't typically deal in such chefs d'oeuvre.

The crabber painting is so atmospheric I can't stop scratching myself. One can only imagine how much of a problem crabs were among those swarthy seamen of youre cooped up on the same small boat together for weeks on end.

Posted by kinaidos | March 28, 2007 8:35 PM

awww soil shmoil

Posted by something else | March 28, 2007 10:21 PM

Nice to see someone with such a pitiful grasp of the Seattle art scene willing to give such a useful opinion.
"Can you believe SOIL started in that dank sloping garage?"

Posted by Outatowner | March 28, 2007 10:31 PM

Good for SOIL. As a former member and proponent of Seattle artists, I'm glad to see some recognition for a fantastic, if sometimes flawed, emerging artist org. Some great artists have been members of SOIL, and I'm sure that that will continue.
I don't know if they started there, but my first association with SOIL was at the location on the Harbour steps. After that, they moved to a small, basement space in Pioneer Square. It was only after that that we moved to "that dank sloping garage" on Cap. Hill, @1. Just FYI.
I'm hoping that this donation will help, in some small way, SOIL to stay around for years to come.
ps- RHSC still lives.

Posted by getout | March 29, 2007 7:13 AM

RHSC lives? Is it back?

Posted by someone | March 29, 2007 8:59 AM

It lives in spirit. If it lives on in actuality is up those on the Eastern side (from my perspective) of the Pacific Ocean.
In my heart, it has never died.

Posted by getout | March 29, 2007 10:17 AM

tax advantages assumed, still, what a grand gesture by the safeco curator(s). soil has had its ups and downs, but overall it continues to be a major resource for emerging talent. i think the decision to auction both represents a fantastic trade for the public at large and also presents more evidence that the idea that artists need to be dead before their work gathers financial steam is a dying investment philosophy.

Posted by m. | March 30, 2007 1:17 PM

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