Following a year away, the popular Box Art Auction Benefiting East End Hospice returns on August 28 to celebrate its 20th year raising funds for the compassionate, end-of-life care service through the auction and sale of one-of-a-kind, artist-made boxes.
This year’s boxes will be on view in a special, two-day preview from Wednesday–Thursday, August 25–26 in Hoie Hall at St. Luke’s Church in East Hampton, where the auction will also take place on Saturday. A “meet the artists” reception is scheduled from 5–7 p.m. on Wednesday for those who’d like to get to know the brilliant men and women who made the boxes.
More than 80 participating artists—including vaunted names such as Marilyn Church, Leif Hope, Carol Hunt, Dennis Leri, Christa Maiwald, Fulvio Massi, Betsy Petrowski, Daniel Pollera, Gabriele Raacke, David Slater, Hans Van de Bovenkamp, Dan Welden and Frank Wimberley, to name a few—have created unique treasures from mostly wooden wine and cigar boxes in a variety of styles and mediums. Of the 80-plus artists this year, 10 have had boxes in every auction since the beginning. Others will be joining for their very first time, making them part of a longstanding tradition that began in 2000 and continues to raise important funds for this deserving organization each year.
Former gallerist and longtime curator and benefit chair of the event Arlene Bujese says this summer’s selection of boxes is an exciting, mixed bag showcasing a wide range of aesthetic sensibilities. “The artists have really responded beautifully and made some terrific works,” Bujese points out, noting that the event is back and as fun as ever, though they are keeping guests’ safety in mind. “We’re of course having to be cautious, there will be masking and that sort of thing,” she explains. “We have to stay with the program as far as protection goes.”
While East End Hospice (EEH) gets most of its major donations during the organization’s annual Summer Gala, Bujese says the Box Art Auction is nothing to sneeze at. “People always say that it’s a favorite because it’s short and sweet and lots of fun, and you go home with a nice piece of art,” she says, but the auction also earns EEH some $50,000 – 60,000 each year, and that’s certainly important.
Because the 2020 auction was canceled, Bujese says a number of participating artists simply donated last year’s boxes to this year’s event. “The artists who had already made boxes just held onto them, and then, for other artists who were late anyway, this gave them more time.”
One of the most sought-after boxes this year, which should draw a nice price, incorporates a sculpture by late East Hampton artist Bill King, who made frequent contributions to the event until his death in 2015. Donated anonymously from a private collection, the small sculpture is instantly-recognizable as one of King’s—a saxophone player whose lanky figure reflects and exaggerates the artist’s tall and thin physique. It comes attached to a box with Velcro, making it easily removable, should the buyer want to display the piece as it was originally intended.
“This is in honor of all those artists who have died over the past 20 years,” Bujese says of the sculpture, “because we lost Bill a couple of years ago and some artists this year, artists who either had been in the event before or were going to be this year. Over 20 years, there are quite a few.”
The King box is just one highlight in a field of many beautiful creations. “We’ve got some tremendous boxes this year, and variety certainly is there,” Bujese says. “We have landscape to sculptural, painting on boxes, breaking boxes up and making something with them, fiber, cloth, paper, found objects – the variety is terrific, so that when one walks around, there’s something for everyone,” she continues. “If you like more traditional, it’s there. If you like people who really stretch it out, it’s there, so that’s what makes it pretty delightful. Some artists you’ll recognize it as their signature works … and others just go far afield from what they normally do. Like a David Slater [box] looks like a David Slater painting, and there are a number of people like that. It’s a very wide range and I think that’s what makes it even more interesting.”
Bujese, who took over the event from David and Marianne Porter two years after it started, says she couldn’t be more pleased with how the auction has grown and matured, and helped raise awareness about EEH over the last two decades. “The past 18 years it’s been my baby, but I’ve absolutely loved every minute of it,” she says. “The artists, they’re so generous. You realize they donate the entirety of this work and they make it specifically for this event, and I think that makes it very special. This is generosity of material, but also of spirit.”
This year’s annual Spirit of Community Award will be presented to Donald Sussis on Saturday, for 20 years as a stalwart and generous supporter of the box art auction and EEH.
Those interested in viewing the boxes, or perhaps planning a bidding strategy, can visit the preview any time from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. Tickets to Saturday’s auction, from 4:30–7 p.m., are $100 and include wine and hors d’oeuvres. All proceeds benefit East End Hospice.
Visit eeh.org for more info, including photos of all participating boxes.