For the seventh year, Art & Music—an art auction fundraiser for WMSE 91.7FM—will take place at The Pritzlaff Building and showcase art and music as a means of generating support for the public radio station. This event is billed as multisensory and immersive, touting “art, music, food, and entertainment” for the whole family. Ah yes—the four senses.
Maybe you’re a beginning collector or a longtime WMSE supporter. Maybe you want something to do on a February evening. You don’t even need to wait for this Friday to get the ball rolling. All the art is already up for auction on the website, featuring nearly 200 pieces by artists both new and familiar. I impulsively bid on three pieces immediately, forgetting my previous experience at an art auction wherein, at bell closing, I was suddenly accountable for many payments. It’s easy to be competitive at art auctions—the artists you recognize are selling work at a steep markdown, the money goes toward an endeavor that supports more artists and musicians, and you can decorate the empty wall in the living room with affordable originals. Who doesn’t love affordable originals?
There are some limitations, however. The artists were given a 12” by 12” birchwood board, roughly the size of a vinyl album sleeve, as their prompt. With no additional instructions, artists submitted oil paintings and mixed media and porcelain sculptures and photographs and prints and textiles and all kinds of imaginative interpretations to the auction. Bidding starts at $50 for each work in the show. The size of each artwork is intentional. Art and music belong together, and the evocation of an album cover elicits a deeply visceral response among music collectors.
As of this writing, many pieces still have not been bid on yet. There’s “Crossfire” by C. Kai Marquardt, a spraypainted Chinese dragon, bright and symmetrical, the kind of which you see during the vivid upswing of a psilocybin dose.
There’s “Tree Spirit” by Sally Duback that showcases the artist’s paper-making skills, a leafy mask sculpted into colorful relief. You’ll also find a pair of pseudo-abstract pastorals called “Farm Fence 1” and “Farm Fence 2” by Betty Blexrud-Strigens.
The auction also offers and a fully abstract “Abstract Study 138” by Dave Watkins that toys with the vertical and horizontal in a steely and springy palette. “Shelf Road, CO” by Maddy Prodoehl incorporates the birchwood canvas into the image, as Prodoehl has rent a photograph—a real one, developed in a darkroom—to mimic the gray ridgelines receding in the distance.
All that is great, and you too have access to the auction website on WMSE, where you can still place the starting bids on a number of worthy works of art. There’s plenty more contributions in different styles to browse and consider filling an empty wall in your home, office, or group punk hovel.
Once the novelty of bidding temporarily wore off for me, I started wondering how and when I should collect what I win. The press release for the event states “Art & Music will transform The Pritzlaff Building into a dynamic studio with an auction,” but gave few details as to of what element in the auction the studio component fulfills. Live painting? Jam sessions? Breakdancing? Perhaps all the of above, as “avant-pop duo” NINETEEN THIRTEEN is rumored to have plans to collaborate with an artist for an on-site performance, something you can only see during the live event.
The auction closes at 10 p.m. on site in the historic building. This is where the real action should take place, as the bidding moves away from the eBay model and into the Christie’s. All five sections will close at staggered times throughout the night as bidders battle for top positions. However, if this all sounds too energetic for you, or maybe you’re feeling like a mysterious benefactor instead of a showy supporter, you can still win from placing bids on your phone or computer from home. A highest bid is a highest bid no matter where you are when it’s placed. You’ll miss the WMSE DJs spinning records and any impromptu live studio element the organizers are tight-lipped about, but hey, any and all contributions make a difference.
Proceeds support WMSE’s mission and vision to continue to showcase art and music in Milwaukee. If this anticipated event is any indication of what 2024 will look like for the station, they’re off to another exceptional year. WMSE’s 7th annual Art & Music event and auction will take place at The Pritzlaff Building from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, February 9. Tickets to the event can be purchased in advance for $15. Online bids can be placed HERE.