Arizona ArtBeat: Phoenix Art Museum Benefit Auction

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The Contemporary Forum at Phoenix Art Museum has purchased more than $3 million worth of art for the Museum. The Forum’s annual Art Auction & Dinner is its major fund-raiser, selling art donated by some of the nation’s most-respected artists and art galleries. This year’s event, on March 20, will feature nearly 60 pieces of art. French Thompson, president of the Contemporary Forum Executive Committee, and Scott Talbot, vice president of the organization, will talk about the auction and the art.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of "Arizona artbeat" looks at an effort to keep the arts afloat in Phoenix. The contemporary forum at Phoenix art museum is set to hold its annual art auction and dinner to support the museum. Here now is French Thompson, president of the contemporary forum executive committee, Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us. What is the contemporary forum.

French Thompson: A nice organization that is part of the museum of people that just enjoy contemporary art. Many different support groups within the museum, but the forum strictly, you know, supports the contemporary art, might be photography, weaving, but something that is going on right now. Not something that happened in the past. Not something that is western, but really what is right now.

Ted Simons: Right now coming up is the art auction. How does the forum work with the auction? Give us the logistics here.

French Thompson: We have been doing this for probably 30 years. It's an event where we contact artists that live in the valley. Some of them live out of state. Some of them are in galleries in santa FE, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and they donate work to the museum. They donate it to the contemporary forum. We actualize the profit by auctioning these pieces off. Part of the work is actually on a silent auction and half of it is in a live auction.

Ted Simons: We have a number of these pieces here. Let's show those, if we can and show them for a few seconds each. We don't have -- this is a big piece right here, isn't it?

French Thompson: It is a big piece. This is something when you would walk in someone's home, you would definitely notice that this makes a presence.

Ted Simons: And that's another one there.

French Thompson: This is a pastel. This artist does amazing work. Detail in there that you look at it forever to find out everything that she has done.

Ted Simons: And our next one, something, again, that would look nice in any home, I would imagine.

French Thompson: Absolutely. This is charcoal on paper.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

French Thompson: That is a different medium. This is exquisite. People don't think of really fine work on paper but this is exquisite.

Ted Simons: If you want surrealism, there you go.

French Thompson: She takes some of her own photos and digitally alters them. Old photos of family members that she has had for many, many years, scans them in, puts them in with color, puts everything together, and she just makes these whimsical, just amazing surrealistic landscapes.

Ted Simons: How do you choose the artists? How does this work? How do you decide what will be auctioned off?

French Thompson: I think it is a little like the restaurants that we have in this valley. They come and go and then you find the ones that are good and find the ones that you don't go to as often. And a lot of these artists, they firmly support the arts in the valley. A lot of these people have been around for a long period of time. They have donated year after year after year, and the museum -- the Phoenix art museum is the largest museum in the state. I always say this is the main place to support if you're supporting the arts.

Ted Simons: And we have winky here.

French Thompson: What an incredible image that is. That is not something that you will wake up in the morning and go into the living room or wherever it is and go that doesn't do a thing for me. That will brighten your day.

Ted Simons: That's a local artists -- the local artist -- I think Jeff -- yes, I have met him in the past. Did he say I've got something for you? Or do you say I saw winky and I want it?

French Thompson: We don't generally curate the work. Most of these artists have been with us for a period of time. And if they ask us to come and give us the opinion, we will do that. And I have done that on several occasions. I've looked at some work and said I would rather have that than I would this.

Ted Simons: As far as the auction is concerned, young collectors are encouraged.

French Thompson: Yes, they are.

Ted Simons: Explain, please.

French Thompson: The price for them is $75. They get cocktails. A table, they get Hor D'oeuvres. This isn't the sit-down dinner, but they can be there and participate in the bidding. Since half of it is silent auction, they can put their bid numbers on the silent auction pieces.

Ted Simons: That sounds exciting. To bid on art, as long as you are not going over your head here, sounds kind of fun.

French Thompson: There is nothing wrong with going over your head. I will just tell you this work lasts a lot longer than whatever it is you invest in it. Investment of these works helps support the museum.

Ted Simons: As far as the museum is concerned, changing nature of visitors -- is it changing, the art world, in general from a museum perspective?

French Thompson: Changing all of the time.

Ted Simons: Is it? How?

French Thompson: A lot of what's going on now is that the government has stopped funding for the arts. I'm not going to get into that. But they have taken money out of the schools so that the school children don't have the curriculum in the arts. There is a lot of things going on where it just isn't there. So the museum itself, when I go down there in the day, I see school buses there all of the time. They're taking kids through there and you hear the words wow and cool and that's so neat and things like that.

Ted Simons: All right. Before we let you go again, when is the auction?

French Thompson: Tomorrow night, Friday, at 6:00, dinner starts at 7:00. And we have over 60 works of art.

Ted Simons: Very good. We wish the best of luck to winky, and best of luck to you as well.

French Thompson: Thank you.

French Thompson:President, Contemporary Forum Executive Committee; Scott Talbot:Vice President, Contemporary Forum;

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