Partygoers Became Artists at the Public Art Fund's Spring Benefit, Thanks to Rob Pruitt and Sol LeWitt

Artist Rob Pruitt blowdrying crayons
(© Patrick McMullan Company, Inc.)

NEW YORK — For a little over a year now, artist Rob Pruitt’s silver, larger-than-life statue of Andy Warhol at the northwest corner of New York City’s Union Square has fulfilled the mission of the Public Art Fund. The non-profit organization strives to bring art to a wider audience, to get people “to connect with contemporary art every day — whether they like it or not,” said its director and chief curator Nicholas Baume last night at the organization’s spring benefit, “Installation in Progress.”

The aptly titled fundraiser and silent auction was indeed an “Installation in Progress.” Guests — who included artists Glenn Ligon, Matthew Day Jackson, and Hanna Liden; gallerist Gavin Brown; and Carol LeWitt, the widow of artist Sol LeWitt — were encouraged to partake in a handful of interactive art installations. Art critic Jerry Saltz picked up a marker and scrawled a jagged line onto Sol LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing #797,” which called for participants to make irregular horizontal lines across the canvas in red, yellow, blue, or black until they reached the bottom.

“Everybody gets to be an artist,” said Baume during his dinner remarks.

Pruitt brought out fond childhood memories through his interactive concept, which required partygoers to pick up blow dryers and melt crayons on to canvasses to create “Hot Air Paintings.” Guests could buy the pieces they made — which Pruitt wrapped with custom-designed packing tape covered with his signature — in the silent auction for $1,500 a panel. Eager collectors pounced on the opportunity to purchase one and nearly all of the 30 works went home with a new owner. “I worked at Martha Stewart Living very briefly like 15 or 17 years ago, so I love thinking up crafty ideas,” Pruitt told ARTINFO.

After dinner Brooklyn-based performance art collective CHERYL, who wore cat masks and were dripping with fake blood, staged a happening that incorporated a table of tiered cakes made with Big Gulp cups and strange confections, and a bizarre video centered around the group’s obsession with food.

The event raised $600,000 for the Public Art Fund, with around $200,000 coming in through a silent auction. A 1995 Julian Schnabel screenprint, titled “InviernoSexoPrimaveral,” sold for $5,000, while a 2007 large-scale Paola Pivi photograph, “One Cup of Cappuccino, Then I Go,” which features a leopard the artist let loose in a gallery filled with cappuccinos, went for $25,000.

Click on the slide show to see images from the Public Art Fund’s spring benefit, “Installation in Progress.”