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In the ungodly heat of a Sunday afternoon, the usual sports-jersey-clad clientele of Arlington’s Bardo Rodeo is conspicuously absent under the canopy of the outdoor terrace. Instead, wilted artists down barbecued veggies and pints of DeGroen’s Hefeweizen while overseeing their works splayed across the bar’s pool tables. The heat and the beer are making everyone a little loopy; some artists have taped “U Break U Buy” signs next to their drawings.
The artists have been manning their stations since 11 a.m., when about 30 of them showed up to hawk their wares in D.C. photographer Annie Adjchavanich’s latest Bardo Rodeo $100 Art Sale, where everything sells for that price or less. This is Adjchavanich’s 14th sale since May 1998; she holds most of them at her F Street NW studio, with fresh bagels and sushi alongside the affordable local art.
But the off-the-scale heat and humidity have kept buyers away. Bob Monahan’s unframed gray abstract drawings and sculptures haven’t been selling. “Most [visitors] talked, asked questions, and moved on,” the artist reports. “I can’t blame them,” he adds, “because I don’t have finished-product-type art.” This market demands matted, ready-to-hang work. Plus, most potential buyers of low-profile artists, Monahan explains, want to know the person they’re buying from.
Too bad for Baltimore artist James Bills. His nifty drawings investigate the space inside nail polish bottles and lipsticks: they make cosmetics look like formidable architectural achievements. So far today, Bills has gotten “a lot of great feedback.” But no takers.
“This was packed last year,” says painter Dennis Eisen, squinting in the sun, referring to the more than 80 artists who participated in Adjchavanich’s first Bardo sale. Eisen, who sculpts action figures, including Jurassic Park dinosaurs and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for toy manufacturers as his day job, has sold four paintings so far. That’s the same number he sold last year, so he isn’t complaining.
Metalsmiths Nick Barnes and Mimi Masse chalk up the day’s low turnout to the heat. As for the folks who have stopped by, Masse characterizes them as “timid.” Apparently, most folks, conditioned on museum “Don’t Touch” rules, forgo hands-on browsing. The most inquisitive person they’ve seen all day is a little girl whose mom is an artist selling in the show. While touching and exploring the jewelry he’s got for sale, Barnes explains, the little girl “got a ring stuck on her big toe.”—Jessica Dawson