Contemporary Calgary’s extravagant fundraiser borrows the ‘look’ of Warhol and Studio 54


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There will be drag queens, roller skate models and several DJs spinning tracks from a Juliet balcony. There will be elaborate light shows, a dinner hosted by a collection of Calgary’s top chefs, and a one-night-only exhibition of Andy Warhol works on loan from prominent collectors in the community. There will even be screenings of some of Warhol’s most daring films.

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It’ll all be happening at Contemporary Calgary on June 11 for the LOOK2022 gala and art auction, which will find the former Centennial Planetarium transformed for a show meant to harken back to the glory days of Studio 54, the notorious decadent Manhattan nightclub that became known for its freewheeling excesses and celebrity regulars in the late 1970s.

“You can just imagine fog, lasers, lights and projections,” said David Leinster, CEO of Contemporary Calgary, in a press preview late last week. “Interesting people: models, drag queens, fashionable people. It will just be a scene. It’s such a beautiful building. It’s not built like an art gallery but it is a work of art. We just thought, given the theme and when this building came to life in the late 60s and really came to life in the 70s, it’s really period specific.

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Yes, after two years of pandemic closures, the gallery seems determined to pull out all the stops for its major fundraiser this year. Leinster says the event, which was organized by a committee chaired by Mode Models CEO and founder Kelly Streit, is intended to provide an experience “where you don’t feel like you’re in Calgary” but “you’re really proud from you I’m in Calgary.

It’s also the main fundraiser for Contemporary Calgary, which officially opened in early 2020, but has been hosting LOOK fundraisers since 2014. Its most recent in-person gala was on March 7, 2020, a few days only before the world begins to shut down due to COVID. -19. It grossed $500,000 for public programming and exhibits.

But Leinster says the fundraising aspect “is an afterthought, because it’s a celebration of the community.“At the heart of the event is an auction featuring donated works by a wide range of contemporary visual artists.

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“Work in our auctions is important work,” says Leinster. “It’s not just donations, it’s donations of coveted works of art. The community is very excited about it. It’s not just an event that celebrates support for Contemporary Calgary; it is a celebration of support for local artists, important national artists and international artists.

In fact, for the first time, the LOOK auction will be preceded by a month-long exhibition at the gallery to showcase the art up for grabs. While this will no doubt help to generate interest in the auction, the collection also presents itself as an impressive display that includes pieces from established icons, newcomers, recently deceased artists and artists whose the works are irreverent and boldly political.

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A silent auction is already underway for dozens of pieces. Others are being held for a live auction to be held during the June 11 event and will be overseen by auctioneer Brett Sherlock, international consultant at Christie’s Auction House.

Among the lots in the live auction is an untitled 2021 oil pastel on vellum by Toronto artist Cathy Daley, who died March 2. Mary Shannon Will, who passed away in October 2021, will be represented by Memory, a 2011 acrylic and mirror on wood panel. Sun Dog by Harry Kiyooka, a 1966 serigraph, will also be auctioned. Kiyooka, who was born in Calgary, died at the age of 93 last April. As an artist, activist, collector and educator, he has been a mainstay in the local arts community for decades. He founded the Kiyooka Ohe Arts Center in 2008 with his wife, sculptor Katie Ohe. He also helped lay the groundwork for Contemporary Calgary.

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“Harry himself was one of the founders of the Triangle Gallery, which became the Museum of Contemporary Arts, which became Contemporary Calgary,” says Ryan Doherty, Senior Curator of Contemporary Calgary. “He has a special place in our hearts. He made a few prints in his time but not a ton, he was mostly a painter. This print dates from 1966, so it is extremely rare.

There are other historic pieces, including Kiss Molyvos from 1962. The mixed media work is by the late Ted Godwin, a founding member of a group of Saskatchewan artists known as the Regina Five who helped popularize abstraction in Western Canada. There’s a piece by Calgary’s Chris Cran, a 2021 work by Ron Moppett, one by Czech-Canadian abstract painter Joseph Drapell who was also a founder of the American-Canadian collective New New Painters, and Woman on Blue Sofa of 1961 from the late Calgary. -born modernist Maxwell Bates.

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There will also be works by some relatively new faces, including an untitled 2022 work by Calgary artist Nura Ali and self-taught Banff artist Michael Corner.

The work also covers a variety of tones. My Panties: Trusty by Yvonne Mullock is an intricately detailed 2021 porcelain sculpture that resembles a pair of crumpled underwear.

“They are incredibly delicate, fragile and beautiful,” says Doherty. “One of the fun parts of this job is that she really likes the idea of ​​it being in a live auction, she’s very excited about that moment when the auctioneer has to say ‘And the next on the block, My Panties…'”

The live auction will also include Love Conquers All by Kent Monkman, a renowned Cree visual artist who often explores themes of colonization and resilience in his work. Love Conquers All is a version of the nativity scene with a gold leaf frame and small doors that can be opened to reveal the pictures inside. The artist has imposed his own face on the figures of Joseph, who dons a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, and Mary and baby Jesus, who rests on a Hudson’s Bay blanket. The background shows a nun dragging an Indigenous child away from her home, an allusion to a series of paintings Monkman created for the 2017 traveling exhibition Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience.

The value of the work at auction ranges from $400 to $32,000.

“There’s something for everyone, from abstraction and pop to realism and beautiful landscapes,” says Doherty.

LOOK2022 will take place at the Contemporary Calgary on June 11. A silent auction is in progress. A live auction will take place on site on June 11. Auction items will be installed at Contemporary Calgary and open to the public until June 10. Visit

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