Name recognition is worth its weight in gold in the art world. So it’s novel to think of relative unknowns side by side with art world fixtures, all identified solely by numbers. That’s the premise underlying the Soap Factory’s $99 Sale. All art may not be equal, but for two days, all artists are. The uniformly small size of the works plays on that egalitarian theme. Contributions by the likes of Alex Soth and Jan Estep rubbed shoulders with those of up-and-comers and under-the-radar art stars.
Billed as “an aesthetic mêlée, a bemused statement about the value of art, a snapshot of the Twin Cities’ art scene, and a fabulous fundraiser” the show featured works by 200 different artists across genres—photography, painting, collage, even embroidery. Trying to match artist with artwork proved an entertaining party game for some. But regardless of provenance, the show offered something for everyone, from nude studies to a collage covered in a thick layer of amber-colored laminate in which was embedded (among other things) a dead white mouse.
Perhaps it was this latter item that inspired a young boy to ask his mother, “Why would someone pay $99 for art?” Her reply: “Art has value . . . it’s mysterious.” In some cases, why someone would pay $99 is mysterious. But as for the art on view last night, $99 was in some cases surely a steal. If the $99 Sale is a sort of art lottery, last night’s winning numbers in my own personal and highly subjective system, where 88, 57, 36, and 12.
The pieces reflect the aesthetic diversity on display from 88, a whimsical painting of a yawning red cat in a yellow dress, to 55, an evocative photo of part of the Golden Gate bridge taken, it would seem, through frosted glass; gradations of gray and white punctuated by bits of rich, rusty red. And from 36, a cluster of tiny pencil drawings—revolving around an owl with “FBI” on its breast—connected through snippets of text and words that manage to suggest a rather troubling storyline; “Sunday school” and “You are a ghost” and “Syrup,” to 12, embroidered fabric with a decorative border, but in lieu of, say, a Bible verse, the text reads, “Why does it always smell like ass in here?” Thankfully, that sentiment did not apply to gallery environs.
The $99 Sale runs through Saturday at the Soap Factory.