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[whitespace] New Langton Arts Auction
Multimedia Mall: The New Langton Arts Auction offers indie art lovers a chance to take home gifts while supporting a cause.

Dangerous Booty

Original art may equal original gifts--but watch out for the drink

By Tracie Broom

There's nothing more dangerous than walking into a hip, catered art auction South of Market with a bank of credit cards in your pocket and a wild penchant for alcoholic beverages on your back. Chances are, you're going to flirt with glamorous men in Sigerson Morrisons, drink too many martinis and leave with an armload of bubble-wrapped objets moderne. This, of course, is exactly what the people at New Langton Arts are going for with their 15th annual auction on Dec. 9.

One of the best-kept secrets on the holiday party circuit, the New Langton Auction is a kick-ass haven for smart, sassy sophisticates to quaff cocktails, nosh on fabulous food and catch up on brainiac art makers' latest antics. Each year, the gallery receives 150 or so donated pieces from area artists who've set minimum bids for their work. Local winemakers donate rare bottlings and hard-to-find magnums as well. Since the auction's proceeds form the bulk of the nonprofit gallery's yearly operating budget, donors generally give their best goods in the interest of preserving Langton's indie-gallery glory.

During pre-auction fever, the gallery throws preview parties and special tours for potential bidders, then lets it all out on auction night with a big pre-party replete with donated gastronomic and alcoholic treats. (This year's donors include Blowfish Sushi to Die For, Gordon's, Taste Catering, Anchor Steam, Black Star, Basil Thai, Julie's Supper Club, Odwalla, ThirstyBear and Trader Joe's.) Once everyone is pleasantly sotted, the bidding begins.

Talk about holiday gifts: your friends will marvel at your generosity as you present them with framed Todd Hido photos and Jenny Holzer LED signs. That is, unless you are outbid by the striking young chippy in the corner. Truly, it's the raw, drunken competition among the beautiful people that fuels the hysteria of good humor at the New Langton auction. Where else do the Bay Area's postmodern art crema mingle with one another so effortlessly, with such ruddy cheeks, demure outfits and super-flexi bank accounts?

This year there's another layer to the proceedings: eBay is offering a number of New Langton's pieces in a special online auction at www.ebaygreatcollections.com, which actually won't close until a day after the live and silent auctions are over. Computers will be stationed throughout the gallery for progress checks while Butterfield & Butterfield president Patrick Mead presides over the live bidding. Auction committee co-chairs Gretchen Hillenbrand, Jeanne Meyers and Robert Harshorn will be present to offer commentary and clever quips throughout the evening, but watch out: these arts patrons might bid your favorite piece right out from under you if you're not careful x

Going Once, Going Twice ...

To get in on the Dec. 9 auction action, call the gallery at 415.626.5416 (New Langton Arts is located at 1246 Folsom St.). The 6-8pm pre-party is $125 ($150 at the door) and includes auction admission and valet parking. At 7:30pm, general-admission tickets go on sale for the 8pm auction: $30 in advance, $40 at the door.

While plenty of more traditional art will be available, there will be options for the more buoyant bidder. One of the more interesting works is a Ken Goldberg piece painted by a robot, and performance artist Tom Marioni has donated an invite to cocktails with him. Not to be outdone, Polly Apfelbaum is giving a mixed-media piece, Amy Balkin has made a miniature of power lines on a field, Canan Tolon is giving an oil on mylar, David Ardito has made a functional mandolin out of a gasoline can, and Lauren Davies has made a stuffed dog out of dog fur. One major coup: Mike Light and NASA have donated a direct digital monochrome C-print called "Astronaut's Shadow" from the same moon photo series now on partial display at the SFMOMA.

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From the December 6, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc.