On Friday, February 22nd Bonhams Auction House opened its double doors to Rock n’ Roll for the Gibson GuitarTown Gala Charity Auction. They housed the gigantic, ten foot tall, Les Paul Gibson guitar sculptures that have been gracing the Sunset Strip for a year now, for an intimate reception and live charity auction, benefiting LA Fund for Public Education. Jack Daniels (fully sponsored) was served up neat and in mixtures as Gibson Audio Artist DJ Spark activated a rock’n vibe. LA’s music, art and business elite conversed and admired the dwarfing artworks before taking their seats in the auction theatre.
This was the 3rd Gibson GuitarTown event held in Los Angeles, thanks to the partnership between Sunset Strip West Hollywood Business Association and the Gibson Foundation. The GuitarTown auctions have benefited a multitude of non-profit organizations in major musical cities from London to Austin since 2004, and now (most perfectly) in LA. In tandum with the Gibson Foundation’s mission to “support the arts, education, health & welfare, and environmental causes,” the LA Fund seems a perfect fit for this years bash.
The beneficiaries will be the kids of LAUSD through their ‘Arts Matter’ program; which is dedicated to revitalizing art and music education with a concentration on engaging kids’ minds in the creative and critical thinking processes. So many of our arts programs have been cut over the years because of budget cuts and pressure to the ensure our kids achieve high test scores. Sadly, the arts are the first programs to get cut. The approach of LA Fund’s program is to integrate the arts within the core subjects. This strategy enhances learning in all areas, and connects the artistic process, art mediums and purpose in a meaningful manner. Dan Chang, Executive Director of LA Fund, noted in his introductions that “right now in Los Angeles, if you are an elementary school student, only 2% of your instructional time is dedicated to the arts – just 2%. And, that’s here in Los Angeles, the creative and entertainment capital of the world.” LA Fund seeks to change that in a powerful way, and so do all the people and organizations part of this great annual event.
Local and nationally recognized artists sought inspiration for their public art guitars from the Sunset Strip itself as well as legendary bands and musicians; Janes Addiction, Black Eyed Peas, The Music Machine, Rage Against the Machine, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Stevie Nicks, James Brown, guitarist Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society, Marc Bolan of T-Rex, Donovan, the British Invasion bands, the photography by Jim Marshall, theatrical artistry of Gillian Eaton, and even the Rainbow Bar & Grill of the Sunset Strip.
Two of my favorite guitars went for top price; Shepard Fairey’s “Electric Warrior” guitar and Juliana Martinez’ “There’s Something Happening Here.” And there certainly was an electric happening going on in the auction room. The prices climbed for these and other guitars, while Dan Chang kept a calm demeanor. But his heart had to be soaring with the growing support for his organization.
Shepard Fairey’s work is included in collections at the Smithsonian, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. Yet, he is probably most widely known for his iconic muli-toned red and blue image of Obama. And his Gibson GuitarTown contribution was nothing less than predictably spectacular. Somehow he transformed the fiberglass body to carry the feel of wood. His design is simple, expressive, balanced and tension ridden. The lines shoot off the edge of the guitar, while the central image draws the eye inward. His guitar, commemorative of Marc Bolan, who he sees as a “rock and roll archetype with a nod to vintage vinyl LP and stereo graphics,” brought in about $13,000 for LA Fund. Shepard stated, “I was excited to contribute to this project because I love the intersection of art and music.”
Local artist, Juliana Martinez, created an incredibly crafted piece. Her mosaic guitar is reminiscent of Buffalo Springfield, who she calls a ‘thinking hippy’s band.’ She has great reverence not only for the band’s music, but for their message that “delivers a challenge to the 1960’s establishment.” Her piece is detailed with symbols of the 60’s in a beautiful flowing design. Every inch has been considered and attended to with love. And, the auctioneers loved it too. It sold for a whopping $17,000.
Also catching a ton of looks and top bids was the colorful acrylic-dripped art guitar called “Freedom,” created by a Lana Gomez, whose work can be seen all over LA; from the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, to outdoor venues, business establishments and her own gallery space in West Hollywood. This young woman’s piece serves as a celebration of “freedom and spontaneity” of the Sunset Strip and its musicians who “blaze their own paths,” as Gomez stated.
One of my other favorites was “British Invasion” by international artist, Todd Williamson. It’s simple, textured and simply super cool. Todd’s studio was filled with the sounds of British rock as he created his piece and reflected at the reception that the Gibson GuitarTown project was the most fun he’s had with a project, from beginning to end.
Ryan McCann’s guitar sculpture dawned a re-awakening of Jane’s Addiction’s iconic ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ album cover. Two semi-twin female busts, melting into or from one another, cradle the outer line of the guitar body, as their flame-like head dresses and gazes stretch beyond the neck of the guitar. Fitting, since after McCann was no longer able to play football, he created his niche as a Pyrographer. Ryan has been commissioned by a multitude of legends. And this evening, his piece went home with Bradley M. Burlingame, President and CEO of Visit West Hollywood.
The night was was filled with art, giving, and activated hope. It is because of the partnership between Gibson Foundation, The Sunset Strip Business Association, and LA Fund, Bonhams, as well as a multitude of artists, and so many other individuals who got involved in this evening’s happening, that the kids who go to school in the Los Angeles Unified School District will enjoy and benefit from a new infusion of the arts in their school day.