If you’re like me, you absolutely adore art in all its forms — you have separate Pinterest boards for the photographs, posters and paintings that inspire you. But if your budget is like mine, those art pieces unfortunately remain on those digital corkboards, never to see the light of day on your bland college walls. Until now, Yalies like me had no cheap options for creatively adorning their walls, unless you counted world maps and Audrey Hepburn posters bought at a discount on Amazon. Then along came this year’s innovative Art Rent event, organized by the new student organization Art Trade.
“The purpose of Art Trade is to allow artists to connect with viewers in a different way than most exhibits allow for,” said Art Trade co-President Dana Glaser ’13. “Because the students keep the work, it allows for a different form of artist-viewer connection as they will be more attached to it.”
Held last Friday in the Silliman Maya’s Room, Art Rent was both an exhibition of student work and a lottery. The idea was simple — student works on display would be silently auctioned off, on loan for the remainder of the academic year. A student could take a piece home for the small fee of $15, out of which $10 would be refunded once the work was returned.
Indie music mixed into mellow folk beats as the doors of Maya’s Room were opened to the public. While some people headed straight for the hors d’oeuvres table, most wandered around to peruse the artwork. From photography to paintings to sketches, there was a little bit of everything for everyone. Subjects ranged from the detailed to the abstract: “Mother Nature’s vagina,” scenic landscapes and paintings of animals like owls, to name a few.
The auction shrewdly counted on the Yale spirit of succeeding at everything to create a social but quietly competitive atmosphere among students who had till now “casually” clustered around bidding jars and eyed each other speculatively.
As the other co-president, Katie White ’13, explained, attendees placed their five allowed bids based on the number of offers a given work had already amassed in its jar.
“Seeing other people appreciate certain works made people more attached to the ones they liked in comparison — people started to think of works as “their” pieces before they even took them out of the room,” Glaser said.
As for myself, I began to solve probability equations in my head, stalking the ground in front of my chosen sketch and giving fierce glances to anyone who showed any intention of bidding on it. Having decided to place all five of my bids in that one jar, I already started thinking about where the sketch would fit into my suite — over the sofa in the common room. Like others, I was deeply upset when I lost out to someone who had placed only one bid in the jar (one!). However, that was besides the point: A diverse group of Yalies had come together to appreciate their peers’ talents, all within the unique and fair scenario of an auction.
The rest of the 53 artworks — those not presented on Friday, and those that remained after the Friday auction — were presented to students on a first-come, first-serve basis throughout the weekend. Art Trade organizer Grier Barnes ’14 said only a handful of works remained by Sunday night.
It isn’t common, Barnes noted, to find student groups that focus on artists rather than musical or theatrical groups. It is even more rare for these groups to center around students’ artwork. Art Trade created a forum for a dynamic art-based experience, one in which students were given the chance to not only witness the plethora of art created on campus but also to experience it by taking it home.
“We aimed to be a conduit between artists and the community, rather than a tastemaker,” Glaser said.
In the future, Art Trade aims to make Art Rent an annual event that takes place near the beginning of the year. In the words of White herself, “you move in your futon, go to the bookstore and then to Art Rent to pick out some cool art for your walls.”
A work of art? $5 a year. A one-of-a-kind centerpiece for your common room? Priceless.