- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

An "animal" auction last night attracted scores of well-heeled bidders in search of elephants and donkeys to decorate their homes or businesses for as much as $10,000 apiece.

Forty-three "Party Animals" sculptures of mascots of the Republican and Democratic parties that have adorned city streets since May were sold to the highest bidders during a live auction at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Northwest last night.

In addition, 16 tabletop versions of the colorful statues were auctioned off, drawing early bids that averaged about $1,000, said Alexandra MacMaster, manager of the Party Animals arts project for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

"The Party Animals were a tremendous success," said Dorothy McSweeny, chairman of the commission. "They brought tourism during a time when we were concerned about the decrease of tourism. They were a very successful exhibition for the city. They were great for civic pride and enjoyment."

All auction proceeds will go to the commission, which will use the funds to provide grants and encourage arts education, Ms. MacMaster said.

She said a program for young, emerging artists would receive aid and there would be initiatives involving various organizations and cultural businesses.

In April, the commission awarded grants to artists from the District and surrounding areas to decorate 100 donkey and 100 elephant sculptures.

Each of the polyurethane sculptures is about 4½ feet high and 5 feet long and weighs about 150 pounds.

In May, the wildly decorated Democratic donkeys and Republican elephants were placed at Metro stops, parks, shops and street corners around the city.

"There was a lot of positive responses," Ms. MacMaster said.

She said that early bidders came from as far away as New York, but most interest was evinced by people from the District, Virginia and Maryland.

One early bid came from a couple whose orchard and farm are inhabited by other statues. They were willing to pay $5,000 for one mascot.

Although admired by many, the Party Animals also were the target of vandalism.

Vandals destroyed one donkey on Massachusetts Avenue and one elephant in Georgetown, and thieves stole a donkey near the FBI headquarters building. About 15 of the animals were vandalized and repaired.

Last month, 69 of them were pulled off sidewalks and squares by officials concerned that the artworks might be damaged by anti-globalization protesters demonstrating against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings.

There, however, has been widespread appreciation for the sculptures, which were heralded as the largest local art exhibit in D.C. history.

Fred Paine, general manager of the property leased to the Shops at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., said that the Party Animals were a pleasure. Several display windows held the animals.

"We loved having them in our galleria. Interest has been phenomenal," Mr. Paine said. "The thing I liked most is that nobody can walk by them and not smile."

Ms. MacMaster said that the city benefited from showing off the Party Animals, then auctioning them.

"The city benefits because money will go back [to arts programs], and there will be more fun projects for the city and the people to enjoy," she said.

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