Art for ACRIA’s Sake

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It takes a minor miracle to pull me onto the blustery, sub-zero streets at night, but when I received an invitation to the art event Bazel Shmazel (the title being a play on the alternative nature of the gathering, as much of the art world is currently celebrating at Miami’s Art Basel) my interest was picqued.

When I learned that there would be an open bar, free appetizers, and artwork – by the likes of Ross Bleckner, Mitch Epstein, Jonathan Seliger, Barbara Takenaga, Michael Bevilacqua and David Moreno – sold at below-market prices, my miracle was delivered. Throw in the fact that 100% of the proceeds would benefit the Aids Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA), I had a reason to feel all warm and fuzzy inside – even if the weather that bombarded me during my commute was anything but.

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As I approached the Cedar Lake Theater in Chelsea’s trendy art district, I could hear the party buzzing. The venue – a large, brick-walled room with a huge chandelier in the middle – was lit with blue and red lights (I’d later find out that it’s the former studio of photography uber-goddess Annie Leibowitz…a typical New York moment, as it seems everything – and everyone – at these events is connected).

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The scene unfolded to the tune of hip-hop beats spun by a DJ perched at the side of the room. Many guests assembled at a fully-stocked, circular, neon-white-lit bar in the center of the space, noshing on munchies like chicken skewers and veggies and dip whilst sipping cocktails. I immediately defrosted with a glass of champagne, and headed toward the back to take in the art displayed unassumingly on easels and table tops.

It was an impressive collection of 20 works ranging from painting to photography to sculpture. I was shocked at the pricing – items varied from $100 to $1000 – a rare bargain for anyone in the know (many of these artists command up to ten times that price in a gallery).

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In typical form, folks gathered, gawked and schmoozed their way past the pieces, some stopping to lounge on a bank of black leather sofas, others congregating on either side of the bar, but this didn’t have the feel of the usual hoitey-toitey gala. There was a genuine sentiment of good will and unity floating amongst the techno beats and champagne bubbles.

When asked what makes an event like this so uniquely “New York,” Scott Drevnig, the Manager of Events & Art Marketing for ACRIA, said, “It’s a wonderful meeting of the minds and different groups coming together, all for a wonderful organization.”

And we all know how much New Yorkers love to join in support of their charitable causes. At the end of the night, 12 pieces of art were sold and $6,000 was raised – so whether it was the open bar or the altruistic atmosphere, in spite of frigid temperatures, there was plenty of warmth at Bazel Shmazel.

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