The Contemporary Art Society’s annual fundraising shindig lures seasoned art collectors eager to snap up works by such internationally renowned artists as Fiona Banner and Saskia Olde Wolbers. Yet perhaps the true appeal of the event – held this year on Wednesday March 13 – is tangential to this. After all, guests simultaneously encounter pieces by lesser-known artists, and such exposure inevitably helps the latter become more recognised.
Indeed, this eventuality is the Contemporary Art Society’s raison d’être. “We’re a national charity that encourages an appreciation of contemporary art in the UK,” says director Paul Hobson. “We raise funds to buy works by new and more established artists, which we donate to public galleries.”
Money will be raised by the £350-a-ticket sales for the Boucheron-sponsored gala dinner and an auction of the art, which responds to a particular theme each year. This time it is wanderlust – an invitation to artists to freewheel in their imaginations through different time zones and fictional lands.
Some have interpreted the theme in terms of birds and their flight. Annie Attridge’s sculpture depicts two lovebirds (first picture) that are nevertheless free agents. “Although locked in an intimate embrace, they possess the freedom of flight,” she says. Also picking up on this avian obsession is Clare Woods’s exuberantly expressionist painting (third picture). “It’s based on a bird’s nest,” she explains. “But I’m more interested in the external view of the nest and how it’s wedged between the branches than in its function to house eggs.” By contrast, Conrad Shawcross’s mixed-media sculpture – a surreally elongated case that opens to reveal strands of gorgeously multicoloured wool (second picture) – is more abstract and enigmatic, yet decorative with it.
The idea of travel is even suggested by the venue: the Old Vic Tunnels (with each tunnel designed to reflect a different time zone). Exploring these will no doubt make the experience of stumbling across artworks all the more thrilling.