Art Auction Nets Hefty Heist for Art Lovers

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 La Jolla collector Jean Kearns with gallerist Carla Tesak.
La Jolla collector Jean Kearns with gallerist Carla Tesak.

“Here we are. We should be competitors, but really we are great friends,” said Laguna gallerist Carla Tesak at the outset of an annual art auction benefit she has previously hosted alone at her gallery, Salt Fine Art.

This year, though, she collaborated with fellow Laguna Beach gallerists Sue Greenwood of Sue Greenwood Fine Art and Lisa Aslanian of The George Gallery to help put up altogether 43 works of art for auction last Saturday.

Dubbed by Tesak “The Conspiracy to Steal Art Auction,” the event to benefit the Ryman Foundation drew 85 enthusiastic bidders. They bought 75 percent of the offered works, netting Greenwood $33,000, Tesak $40,000 and Aslanian $24,000 via a live and silent auction. Among the buyers, local restaurateur and community activist Jon Madison, who bought Rafael Varela’s painting, “Inundatus Infinitus,” for $6,000.

Laguna Beach photographer Fatemeh Burnes, who is represented by George, donated a photograph valued at $750 with proceeds to go directly to Ryman.

The three gallerists earmarked 15 percent of the total auction proceeds for Ryman Arts, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that provides free arts education to underserved youth. Ryman did well, netting $11,000 from the auction; an anonymous donor had also agreed to match the final sum.

With eyes hidden behind a pair of RayBans, auctioneer Mark J. Thomas patrolled the gallery grounds playing the role of “cop” convincingly enough to invite questions whether someone among the well-dressed audience had actually tried something funny.

Ryman Arts alums Marisa and Frankie Ortega added to the playfully larcenous atmosphere by selling numbered plastic handcuffs for $100, half of which wound up in a raffle basket, while the other half remained with the buyer. Frankie Ortega selected the winner, who could pick any silent auction item of choice, bumping off all previous bids for it.

Established by Walt Disney studio artist Herbert D. Ryman in 1990, the program provides art classes and mentorship to artistically talented, lower income teenagers from grades 9-12. Recently, the program has expanded from weekend classes at Los Angeles’ Otis College of Art and Design to Orange County with classes held at Cal State Fullerton. Recipients of merit scholarships, the Ortega twins will attend the Laguna College of Art and Design in the fall as freshmen. “I have always loved art and the Ryman program gave me the sense of direction I needed,” said Marisa Ortega, planning to major in illustration with a concentration on entertainment.

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