Art Base to host ‘Name Unseen’ silent auction online and in-person


What: ‘10x10 Name Unseen’ silent auction

Where: The Art Base, Basalt and online

When: July 31 - Aug. 16

More info:

The Art Base has hung more than 130 new works in its Basalt gallery, ready for display both for socially distanced viewers in person and online.

But the viewer won’t know who made them until the work is sold.

That’s the simple and intriguing concept for The Art Base’s annual silent auction “10X10 Name Unseen.” It challenges regional artists to make a piece of work measuring 10 inches by 10 inches. Artists sign the back, rather than the front. The pieces are displayed without the standard name placards and sold for whatever people are willing to pay for them.

The annual show asks viewers and buyers to fall in love with the work, rather than the artist’s name. The result, in the handful of years “Name Unseen” has been an annual event, is always surprising — the unknown artist whose work draws competitive bidding, the famed regional artist whose work goes for a fraction of what their signed works might. If you go see a lot of local art shows, it can be a fun parlor game to try to guess who made what.

But in any event, it’s for a good cause.

“I am so moved by the contributions and efforts by so many Roaring Fork Valley artists in support of The Art Base,” curator Lissa Ballinger said. “It is an exciting and interesting window into what our valley artists have been thinking about in the past few months.”

“10×10 Name Unseen” is more vital than ever for the Art Base in 2020. The show normally runs for several weeks and culminates with The Art Base’s big annual fundraising gala — in recent years known as the “pARTy at the Art Base” and taking over the facility’s grounds and Lions Park for the third Saturday in August.

The gala provided a bit of drama for the show, unveiling the identities of the artists live as the silent auction closed.

This year, of course, during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, big parties and gatherings like the pARTY aren’t possible. So the Art Base is leaning on “Name Unseen” even more than usual. The work is up on the walls, and exhibiting online, while bids are open through Aug. 16. The pARTy had been expected to bring 250 guests to the community art center, but the event was canceled this spring along with in-person classes and exhibition openings.

“Art is a universal language that is more important than ever in times of crisis,” said Skye Skinner, the executive director of the Art Base who took over the nonprofit in March. “We are determined not to let the pandemic undermine our work or our connection to the community.”

The Art Base served as a creative first-responder for the Roaring Fork Valley this spring as the coronavirus shutdown began. The nonprofit, the weekend quarantine began, launched an “Art Kit To-Go” program that provided art-making supplies for free in kits left safely on the Art Base porch. The program provided a welcome outlet and distraction for kids and adults, with more than 900 kits going out to the community in the days that followed. The Art Base also launched a program to distribute original artwork depicting rainbows, asking valley residents to place them in their windows or share in other creative ways during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis also hit Basalt and the Roaring Fork Valley just a few weeks after the Art Base won Town Council approval to build a new home for itself at the new Basalt River Park which will more than triple the size of its current 1,800-square foot home in the town former library.

Long dreamed of by Art Base supporters and the 10,000-some kids and adults who take part in classes there annually, the new facility is slated for a 2023 opening. But the pandemic and attendant economic crisis came just as the nonprofit was beginning an $8 million fundraising push for the new facility.

As the public health crisis continues, the Art Base is looking to its core mission to carry it through.

“The 10×10 event is in alignment with all the values of the Art Base — bringing community together in a meaningful way — from the artists who donate their work, to members of the public who come to view and bid, or view and bid online,” Ballinger said. “All in support of this beloved, grassroots arts organization.”