- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 6, 2005

Glamorous-but-cutting-edge art happenings may occur regularly in New York City — home to the Whitney and Guggenheim museums and a thriving downtown gallery scene — but in the nation’s capital such affairs are rare indeed.

Which is why Washington Project for the Arts’ annual auction and gala was the place to see and be seen Saturday night for top-notch contemporary artists and those interested in acquiring their works.

The annual fund-raiser benefiting the WPA’s experimental exhibition and performance programs featured a $250-per-person seated dinner for 350 guests, including gallery owners Christopher Murray, Sally Troyer and George Hemphill; patron/collectors Alice Denney, Allison Paley and Conrad Cafritz; and dot-commer Mitchell Caplan (whose company, E*Trade Financial donated $25,000). Several hundred additional supporters paid $90 to attend a dessert reception and silent auction of 80 selected artists’ offerings (with at least half of each item’s proceeds benefiting WPA).

Buzz about individual works was considerable as prospective buyers monitored their bids while discussing the wide range of paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and other items on display.

“This year there are more artists from outside the D.C. area,” State Department Art in Embassies curator Sarah Tanguy noted as she scanned noted New York photographer Spencer Tunick’s provocative group nude image titled, “Space 3 (Williamsburg, NY).” “Most collectors have already acquired works by local artists, so it’s a smart move all around to give them something new to buy.”

Joy over the evening’s record-breaking $250,000 proceeds was muted by the news that Annie Adjchavanich, WPA’s director since 2001, would be departing the often financially-troubled organization at the end of the month to run a commercial art gallery in Los Angeles.

“I’m leaving it financially stable and strong, and with critically acclaimed programming,” Miss Adjchavanich, known as “Annie A,” said as she greet well-wishers in one of her provocative cleavage-baring dresses and trademark dyed (this time “magenta purple”) hair.

The consensus was unanimous that she’ll be a very tough act to follow.

“Annie made the WPA viable again,” Corcoran Gallery Director David Levy said. “She brought it back to the point where it now has a strong future.”

“She has talent, a beautiful flair and a great personality,” Mr. Murray added. “And we’re all going to miss those famous outfits.”

— Kevin Chaffee

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