Berkeley’s Kala Art Institute auction supports local artists

Squeak Carnwath No Side 2, 3/10, UV cured acrylic ink over calcium carbonate over panel, 12" x 12", 2012
Squeak Carnwath: No Side 2, 3/10, UV cured acrylic ink over calcium carbonate over panel, 12″ x 12″, 2012.

By Marcia Tanner

Art lovers looking to do well by doing good, while having fun and maybe coming home with new treasure, will want to show up for “Kala-fornia: State of the Art 3,” Kala Art Institute’s 2013 gala auction this Saturday, April 27.

This year’s auction features over 175 contributions. Most are artworks in a wide variety of media, donated by the artists themselves, but there are also fine wines, museum memberships, spa services and getaways, and other alluring goods and services. The artists represented are mostly from California; many have shown at or been affiliated with the Berkeley-based Kala as participants in its printmaking residencies, fellowships and workshops.

The live auction offers pieces by such well-known artists as Squeak Carnwath, Jim Melchert, Richard Misrach, Naomie Kremer, and Christopher Brown. Kremer contributed a lush, richly colorful painting, Secret Garden, based on the video-projected “sets” she created for the opera The Secret Garden performed at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall in March.


Silent auction works include Ben Venom’s striking, punkish quilted banner, Mine Mine Mind, made from recycled heavy metal T-shirts and denim; Enrique Chagoya’s biting parody of a Warhol Campbell Soup can; a tiny vibrant quasi-abstract painting by Kara Maria; Mel Prest’s small, elegant linear abstract oil painting on panel; Esther Traugot’s adorable, how-did-she-do-it? Seed Dome (Niabell Grape) — grape seeds upholstered in hand-knitted cotton thread, under glass; and a massive, exquisitely crafted wooden bowl by sculptor Sam Perry that would look at home in the Lanisters’ castle in Game of Thrones. (Both Traugot and Perry are currently showing their work in Origins, an exhibition at the Berkeley Art Center.)

Esther Traugot: Seed Dome (Niabell Grape), 2013, Seeds, hand-dyed cotton thread, glass dome, frosted riser, shelf, 7" x 7" x 5.25", Courtesy of the artist and Chandra Cerrito Contemporary
Esther Traugot: Seed Dome (Niabell Grape), 2013, Seeds, hand-dyed cotton thread, glass dome, frosted riser, shelf, 7″ x 7″ x 5.25″. Courtesy of the artist and Chandra Cerrito Contemporary.

It would be difficult not to find something you fall in love with and can’t live without here. Starting bids for silent auction pieces range from $70-$1,000.  Live auction works have generally higher opening bids. It’s OK to get carried away, though, for the sake of both the art and Kala, a most worthy, uniquely Berkeley enterprise. All proceeds from the auction directly support Kala’s programs for artists and the public.

Those who can’t attend can check out the “State of the Art” beforehand.  Potential bidders can visit  the Kala Gallery between now and April 26 to preview the auction exhibition and make advance bids on the tempting array of silent auction offerings.

Kala is a  not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing studio space, printmaking facilities, technical guidance and professional opportunities to artists. Founded almost 40 years ago by artists Archana Horsting, now the executive director and Yuzo Nakano, now the artistic director, Kala has grown from one printing press in a studio garage to its current location in the historic Heinz ketchup factory at 2990 San Pablo Avenue.

In 2009 it expanded, almost doubling its space in the building from 8,500 to 15,200 square feet. Its printmaking studios remain on the Heinz Street side, with more room for artists to work with its traditional and contemporary image-making equipment. Its gallery has moved to street level on San Pablo Avenue, along with a large community classroom, three artist project rooms and a conference room. Kala’s new gallery has become a cultural hub: exhibition openings there are lively gatherings of artists mingling with the larger Bay Area community.


Christopher Brown Early Ohio, 2013, Oil on canvas, 12" x 16" Courtesy of the artist and John Berggruen Gallery.
Christopher Brown: Early Ohio, 2013, Oil on canvas, 12″ x 16″ Courtesy of the artist and John Berggruen Gallery.

Now more visible and accessible to the public, Kala has expanded its mission. While it remains unwaveringly committed to nurturing local, national and international artists via artist fellowships, residencies, workshops, exhibitions and sales, it also offers on-site art education to public school children and the general public. Kala’s Artist-in-Schools and youth programs reach over 3,000 children annually as well.

Kala has an art sales and consulting program serving individual and corporate collectors. And it has initiated a new membership program, Friends of Kala, inviting more participation from the larger community. Further innovations are in the works. With Kala anchoring the art scene in Berkeley, Oakland’s Art Murmur may eventually have competition.

The auction party promises Cuban food from Grace Street Catering, fine wines from local importers, a tasting bar by St. George Spirits and music by DJ Goyo. Advance auction tickets and bid numbers are $45 each and can be purchased online at the Kala Spring Auction website.

Tickets are $60 at the door.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. It’s a post-your-own calendar so we also encourage you to submit your own events.