by Shaunak MahbubaniJul 27, 2021
Motivated by the need to amplify efforts of social justice organisations working for a more just and tolerant future, creative production house CANVAS Chicago has launched an online art auction platform, Future Galerie. The platform aims to support social causes through art auctions, where a curated selection of artists can donate their work, the proceeds of which are given to allied organisation.
The first segment of auctions raised more than $16,000 to aid social justice organisations fighting systemic racism in the USA. The platform desired to promote local and national organisations that support aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement such as My Block My Hood My City, SkyART, Black Youth Project, Storycatchers Theatre and many more.
“We wanted the artists to choose their own social justice organisation, as most of them are from multiple ethnic backgrounds and at the time, they were already making art with social justice in mind,” explains Creative Director Alaiia Gujral.
Future Galerie felt compelled to support social organisations on the frontline and elevate the artistic movement that was emerging in the USA. Gujral shares, “Living in Chicago, the protests were very apparent and street artists really began using the power of artists' expression to communicate the hardship and fight for social justice. Most storefronts had boarded up their windows and all these artists tagged them; the city almost became a canvas for this fight”.
The curated range of participating artists involved individuals with a history in street art, a subculture rooted in social justice slogans that is now recognised as a major branch of contemporary art. SAIC Alumni Alaiia Gujral had gathered an impressive catalogue of 15 acclaimed artists who enthusiastically donated their artwork to the cause.
Some of the artists had also collaborated with CANVAS Chicago a few years ago when the cultural production house was set up. “From this came a lot of relationships with multiple artists, so when we reached out to them, they jumped on the opportunity to donate artwork to our platform,” mentions Gujral.
The range consisted of pieces from Adam Lucas (Hanksy), JC Rivera, Lefty Out There, Max Sansing, Kate Lewis, Liz Flores, Eva Carlini and more, the pieces being auctioned for well-above the retail price. Artwork by Chicago-based artist Marco Miller and Delhi-native artist and chair of the Printmedia department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Shaurya Kumar, were the last ones to be sold.
Shaurya Kumar chose to sell his 19 x 14 piece “if in a sacred land a traveler…” and donate the proceeds to Black Youth Project, an organisation that contributes to the social and political attitudes and behaviours of African American youth.
His recent journeys inspired the piece, reflecting the ideals of equality and empathy. Gold leaves symbolise marks as if left by a pilgrim at a shrine, as an act of reverence or devotion. Beauty emerges from ‘the profound act of engagement, the kind of empathy towards the observed object, met and respected, and not seen through’.
Marco Miller, specialised in portraiture, auctioned “Dusable”, his piece about Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, the “Founder of Chicago”. The proceeds went to Storycatchers Theatre, a musical theatre that works with youth in the juvenile justice system to encourage them to share their personal stories and look beyond their histories.
Miller employs a diversified range of mediums including oil, acrylic, spray paint, charcoal, pastels and water colours. The Mexican-American self-taught artist describes his style as a ‘controlled chaos; a true marriage between grit and grace’.
CANVAS Chicago came up with the idea for auctions and sweepstakes, the latter working as a raffle where money could be donated to receive entries into the sweepstakes. The auction was held for the larger artworks that were donated. Rather than being targeted at elites, Future Galerie believed that having both actions and sweepstakes would allow them to reach out to a larger audience who want to support the movement through art.
Throughout the span of the auction, each artist went live on their Instagram pages to speak about their donated artwork. Bidders and viewers tuned in to the live portion of the auction on @thefuturegalerie’s and the artists’ Instagram pages. Future Galerie, launched in late June 2020, aimed to raise $17,000 before it closed on September 2, 2020.
CANVAS is run by Creative Director Alaiia Gujral, along with co-curators Lonnie Edwards and Don’t Fret. They are currently working on the second edition of the auction and will also be launching their first immersive, art and culinary event called Saideira.