Monday, May 17, 2004

Mercer Union's Better Living - N. Post May 15, 2004

Ever wonder why Canadian contemporary art never turns up at auction? No one has given me a very good reason why not, other than to say there are not enough collectors, and dealers think if the art they sell hammers down at a lower price, the delicate, barely-there art bubble we now live in will suddenly burst and die. Sounds paranoid to me, but still It's amazing how often I hear there isn't enough money in our very wealthy city to make the arts really happen.

Maybe there are just too many little art sales at non-profit art galleries raising money by selling lots of little things at sad little prices. Maybe what's needed is a seriously big gala auction with good and expensive art on the block to bring in the collectors.

Mercer Union's "optimistic" exhibition and paddlefest called Better Living is gambling that's true. Build the auction and they will come. Auction previews have already started with 52 lots by selected artists, designers and architects. The range is $120 to $12,000.

There are a few of the expected "dumb art" offerings that may (but likely won't) be worth a fortune one day -- like Michael Buckland's Los Olvidados del Destino, which has a bloody cleaver sculpted into a boombox (lot 9, $500); or Ron Terada's tiny silver origami unicorn (lot 21, $400). But other objet look mighty fine.

There's a watercolour sketch by Dutch artist Atelier Van Lieshout who's known around the world for his fabulously bizarre living units (lot 52, $2400). Also, New York's Diane Yunque's excellent Little Buddy Chat Chairs, a tete-a-tete for little tykes that encourages talk and discourages groping. "An essential tool in the delay of preschool intimacy," reads the product label (lot 27, $600).

If these sort of original items work for you, you'll probably adore this gold-card auction, the only Canadian contemporary art auction like it. --CO

Mercer Union: Better Living preview runs until May 20, 12-7pm at 129 Spadina Ave, 2F. Gala auction May 20. Doors open 6pm, auction starts at 8pm. $25 admission, catalogues $5.

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