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If sprouting a head of aluminum antennae and donning a jacket covered in mother boards is your idea of a fashionable statement, you’d have been right at home at last Saturday night’s Washington Project for the ArtsCorcoran art auction. The venerable annual event, started by the now-defunct WPA back in 1979 and run by the Corcoran since the WPA folded in 1996, celebrated its 20th year with a futuristic theme. The almost 600 guests were encouraged to don their interpretation of millennial garb—the slinkier and more pared-down the better. There were lots of shiny, techy fashion referents, but a few conscientious objectors: Noche Crist, the 90-year-old doyenne of the D.C. arts community, held court on an upstairs bench with a baroque petit boa hovering around her neck. Her mixed-media piece, Tangoing Blue Demons, with its pair of limber, sparsely clothed dancing felines, joined more than 150 works by District-area artists on the auction block that night.
Although silent auction bidding started at 6 p.m., most patrons didn’t pencil in their bids until well past 9 p.m., just a half-hour shy of bidding’s close. Things got intense after that. Bidder 414 duked it out with Bidder 467 for Kim Kirkpatrick’s untitled photograph of a pile of purple rags, 467 upped 414’s initial $25 ante to $50, and so on until $425 was plopped down near bidding’s end. A handful of other works, like A. Clarke Bedford’s sepia-toned silver print Raft of the Medusa Gumby, sparked skirmishes that rocked the galleries.
The art that stole the show wasn’t hanging on a wall or ensconced in a vitrine, but plopped dead center at the round tables for the $190-a-ticket dinner preceding the auction. While reviewing the auction budget earlier this year, WPAC board member Annie Adjchavanich had noted that more than a thousand dollars had been allotted for centerpiece rental. “It’s ridiculous to rent plants,” she says, so she suggested commissioning artists chosen from the WPAC artist slide registry to donate the 28 centerpieces.
Bethesda photographer Charlotte Mouton created Chicken Farming 2050 for the event. The sculpture features a white chicken with a silver beak perched on mini bales of hay, with Polaroid transfer prints of eggs scattered at the bird’s feet. The result is, according to Mouton, “a piece of redneck heaven.”—Jessica Dawson