Non-Profit Gallery NURTUREart’s Annual Benefit Brings Art-Thirsty Crowds to Charles Bank

After having to reschedule it twice — first because of Hurricane Sandy‘s imminent approach, and a second time due to the ensuing power outage in Lower Manhattan — Brooklyn non-profit NURTUREart held its annual benefit last night at Charles Bank Gallery on the Lower East Side, where available artworks covered most available wall space and attendees squeezed through the gallery’s narrow hall in hopes of snapping up their favorite piece.

Each ticket-buyer to the Bushwick gallery’s annual fundraiser gets to leave with one of the works on view, a format that makes for some competitive jostling early going. Ten minutes after the VIP preview began at 5pm, the space already felt nearly full. “People started lining up outside at 4:30pm,” NURTUREart director Marco Antonini told ARTINFO.

“We’re supposed to get 200 more people when the benefit officially opens at 7pm,” said Karen Marston, president of the non-profit’s board of trustees, as she prepared to give a speech to the full house (above). Before commending her organization’s staff and the benefit’s honorary chairs — who included artists Jose Parla and Mickalene Thomas — Marston encouraged attendees to buy tickets for Bushwick Daily‘s Hurricane Sandy relief raffle, and thanked Charles Bank Gallery for letting them leave the benefit show hanging for two weeks in the storm’s aftermath.

Befitting a benefit taking place in the wake of a disaster, many of the works available to ticket-buyers were upbeat if not downright hilarious, from Janet Culbertson‘s “Toxic Garden” (2009) — a mixed media work featuring a monkey staring directly at the viewer while red-hot nuclear power plant cooling towers spew steam in the background — and Nancy Radloff‘s “……and Beyond” (2011), an installation of three monogrammed towels spelling “LSD” on a towel rack, to Brett Walker‘s full-frontal self-portrait, “Solo Exhibition” (2012).

The funniest work, however, may well have been Daniel de Paola‘s “Ransom: $50,000″ (above), a handwritten letter to the Archbishop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral containing a Eucharist and the following note:

I have in my possession the consecrated body of Christ. It will be hanging at the Charles Bank Gallery from October 28th to 29th under the titled of “Ransom: $50,000.” Contact me with the money: do not try to purchase it for less. If you do it will be destroyed.

With just a half hour to go in the VIP preview, that work was, inexplicably, still unclaimed. Perhaps the Archbishop was keeping watch, hidden among NURTUREart’s crowd of boisterous supporters.

— Benjamin Sutton