Artists Image Resource takes to Instagram for 'stellar' online art auction | Visual Art | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Artists Image Resource takes to Instagram for 'stellar' online art auction

click to enlarge Artwork by John Lysak, to be included in AIR's online auction on Instagram - IMAGE COURTESY OF ARTISTS IMAGE RESOURCE
Image courtesy of Artists Image Resource
Artwork by John Lysak, to be included in AIR's online auction on Instagram
Pittsburgh arts educator, printmaker, and installation artist Jo-Anne Bates' social and politically themed artwork is so impressive, it earned her the title of Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Artist of the Year in 2017. Last week, one of Bates' framed prints — a beautiful feministic collage of shredded paper with "REAL POWER IS WOMAN POWER" printed across the front of the colorful abstract design — sold for only $110 in Artists Image Resource's art auction on Instagram.

A few days later, the North Side gallery and workspace, known best by local artists and activists for its open-studio nights for screen printing, put up for bid a print from one of Pittsburgh's most renowned illustrators and poster artists Mike Budai. The 16-by-24 inch artwork of a super cute kneeling vampire, holding tightly onto a sword that's propping up a lifeless toy rabbit which has just been stabbed (it's much more adorable than it sounds!) was purchased for a mere $60.

But seeing the artwork go for less than the pieces would normally get sold for is part of what makes the auction important, according to Rachel Saul Rearick, a Pittsburgh artist and AIR board member. "As with many auctions, work goes for less than what the retail value might be if buying it outright from the artist," she says. "It makes art accessible to more people."
click to enlarge Artwork by Quai Whitlock, to be included in AIR's online auction on Instagram - IMAGE COURTESY OF ARTISTS IMAGE RESOURCE
Image courtesy of Artists Image Resource
Artwork by Quai Whitlock, to be included in AIR's online auction on Instagram
The stellar online auction, which has been has been filled day after day with incredible artwork of a wide range of artistic styles over the past several weeks, is one of the ways AIR is adjusting to funds lost due to the pandemic.


"An Instagram auction is a fun way to raise money for AIR during a time when shop usage is down, as well as connect with local artists and collectors," says Rearick, who's been heading up the auction. "And ultimately, I hope it’s also growing our AIR community for when we can return to having more people in the space."

Rearick herself donated a piece to the auction — a minimalistic but bold monoprint mounted on steel; a collaboration with her wife Katie — that was sold for $160. Other artwork that's still to come up for auction includes another piece by Budai, and work by John Lysak, Clayton Merrell, Mary Martin, Ian Short, and Quai Whitlock.

Like many other arts organizations throughout the city, AIR had to switch gears when the pandemic arrived in March, no longer being able to host on-site events, exhibitions, and open-studio nights that so many local artists have become dependent on over the years.

The idea for an online auction formed after AIR realized it would have to cancel its annual fundraising party, which the organization was in the midst of organizing when the pandemic hit. The event always included a real-time raffle drawing, something AIR's co-founder and director Robert Beckman says helped support AIR's operating budget.

The Instagram auction, which continues through Fri., June 12, begins every morning at Instagram.com/AIRPGH. Bidding for each item starts at $20, and people can continue to place bids by typing in the amount they are willing to pay for the item, in increments of at least $10 higher than the last bid. Each auction ends at 8 p.m. and AIR arranges a time with the winner who has placed the highest bid to safely pick up the artwork.

Beckman says the auction has already been a financial help. "The daily support has begun to make up for some of the Open Studio revenue that has dried up since the shutdown," he says. "As we continue to reconsider how to get resources into the hands of artists during COVID, having some finances like this that are unrestricted helps us to make more take home kits available at an affordable rate for artists, etc."
click to enlarge Artwork by Mary Martin, to be included in AIR's online auction on Instagram - IMAGE COURTESY OF ARTISTS IMAGE RESOURCE
Image courtesy of Artists Image Resource
Artwork by Mary Martin, to be included in AIR's online auction on Instagram
In addition to home kits, AIR is also working with folks remotely and allowing artists to pick up items curbside, and Beckman says they're working on more ways to invite people into the studio on an appointment basis.

And while the pandemic has been a struggle, in a way, AIR has also been a little more prepared than some other organizations during this time.

"AIR was designed to work with artists both on site and from a distance," says Beckman. "
We have always tried to optimize the artist’s time on site and minimize the need for travel and extended time commitments. Some of these dynamics (i.e. trading image files digitally, proofing and testing with and without the artist on site, shipping proofs and tests back and forth, etc.) have helped us create a more collaborative approach to our studio work and have allowed us to work with more people. Some of these methods have positioned us in an interesting way post (or on-going) COVID."


Even though the open-studio times are closed, the space is still accepting projects from designers, activists, makers, and educators in need of print needs during this time. (Inquiries can be sent to info@artistsimageresource.org.)

"AIR has always been a behind-the-scenes resource working to support artists, educators, activists and others in the community. During this time of uncertainly, we know that there are many people and organizations that have great needs," says Beckman. "We want to be available to help in any way that we can — if you think we can support any of your efforts, please contact us."

And, like many other organizations in time, AIR is also asking those who can afford to do so to make a donation through its website. "No donation is too small to assist with keeping us afloat," Beckman adds.

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