SMFA Art Sale Goes Online—and Global

The annual sale, a fundraiser for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, will be held Nov. 9-23
A black and white abstract drawing. The annual SFMFA Art Sale, a fundraiser for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, will be held Nov. 9-23
Rebecca Boraz, SMFA06, detail from “Remembering the Future #2,” intaglio, 16 x 16, 2020.
October 26, 2020

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For its first 37 years, the annual SMFA Art Sale—a major fundraiser for student financial aid—was an occasion to make one’s way to 230 The Fenway, where several thousand pieces of art were on display, waiting for new homes.

But this year, with the pandemic, the sale is going global. No longer limited to nearby buyers, the event is online and open to art collectors around the world.

The art sale, which runs Nov. 9 to 23, is a juried show this year, ensuring that the highest quality works will be on offer. Pieces by more than 300 SMFA faculty, alumni, students, and friends will be included. And the online format makes it possible for all SMFA artists to submit their work for consideration—even those whose studios are far from Boston.

Show jurors were Akili Tommasino, associate curator of modern and contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; SMFA alumna Shinique Smith, a multimedia artist based in Los Angeles whose works have been exhibited in museums around the country; and Nina Johnson, director of Nina Johnson Gallery in Miami.

“When I was invited to be a juror, I felt honored as an artist and alum to participate,” said Smith. “There were many submissions and a variety of amazing artworks, so it was challenging to narrow down the works to appear in the show, but inspiring to see so many worthy contributions.”

The more than 600 works chosen are by artists who range “from fresh new talent to seasoned professionals,” said Smith. Among the well-recognized artists represented are Rachel Perry, Daniel Rich, and Lalla Essaydi.

The show is also highlighting work by those traditionally less represented in the art world, said the organizers, emphasizing art from Black, indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and feminist communities. Among the artists included in the sale are SMFA alumni Marlon Forrestor, Anthony Peyton Young, Helina Metaferia, Jamal Thorne, Cobi Moules, Gonzalo Fuenmayor, and Mima McMillan.

Pat Steir, “Untitled,” silkscreen in 8 colors, 28 x 38, edition 4 of 30, 2011.“I am grateful to all the artists for submitting their work and wish them all good fortune and inspiration on their artistic journeys,” said Smith.

Proceeds from the sale “go towards making sure that no student who belongs at SMFA will be turned away because they can’t afford to join us,” said SMFA Dean Nancy Bauer. “Every penny we raise will ensure that we can continue to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all of our students.” That’s all the more important as the pandemic has dramatically increased student financial need.

Artists also benefit, receiving a percentage of the sale. This is significant especially for those new to the art market. The artists’ exposure to new audiences through the sale also helps, said Smith.

Included in the sale will be up to nine complete pieces from the SMFA’s Exquisite Corpse project. Inspired by the link between COVID-19 and the 1918 influenza pandemic, Exquisite Corpse uses a drawing technique developed by the surrealists in which multiple artists co-create art by drawing on a single piece of paper together.

The project was developed by Jen Mergel, a contemporary curator and SMFA at Tufts board member, who sees it as an opportunity to create meaningful connections between creative minds during a time of social distancing. Participating Exquisite Corpse artists include SMFA at Tufts faculty members Ethan Murrow, Ria Brodell, and David Antonio Cruz, and alums Sheila Pepe, Jedediah Caesar, and Nicole Cherubini.

For more information about the SMFA at Tufts Art Sale, which runs Nov. 9-23, including viewing works for sale and how to register, go to http://smfa.bidsquare.com/.

Taylor McNeil can be reached at taylor.mcneil@tufts.edu.