Incognito at Santa Monica Museum of Art

The Santa Monica Museum of Art throws a great party. Every year, around this time there’s a party that’s thrown called Incognito. Should the name conjure images of revelers with bars across their eyes or entire heads pixelated beyond recognition, you might be a little off in your expectations. Incognito is an annual fundraiser for the lovely and prolific Santa Monica Museum of Art, located in the Bergamot Station cluster of galleries.

As an event, it’s fun and fun filled. The premise is terrific.

Artists are solicited to donate a piece of art to Incognito. All pieces are 8×10 inches and can be either vertical or horizontal. No signatures are allowed on the face of the piece and thus the resulting salon style exhibition is awash with anonymous images. The installation is three rows high, approximately at eye level, and rings the generous exhibition space. The variety is immense.

The Crowd, The Guard and the Art.

The patrons then get to choose their pieces, for $300 a pop based solely on the image and not the name and/or reputation.

The insistence of this anonymity places the concept of “collecting” back in a framework of loving the image or the style or the particular response a work elicits in the eye of the beholder.

My Silhouetted Form of a Giacometti, executed on a Vintage Map of Egypt.

As an artist, I’ve been pleased to participate four years running. I have always found it a pleasure, not only to support a museum, which has done some excellent programing over my tenure here in Los Angeles, but also to get a charge from the knowledge that someone connected with the image enough to pluck down three tax deductible Benjamin’s and carry my work home.

There is, however, an interesting flip side to the anonymity issue. While the patron does finally get to know the name of the artist, the donating artist is never privy to the name of the patron.

Michael Andrew Rosenfeld’s Dirigibles are always a retinal pleasure to behold.

The party is of course artist heavy for as donating participants, we get invited to the fete. So on an annual basis I see artists and we show each other our pieces. While pointing out my work to a new artist friend a stylish women with a wide black hat worthy of a Kentucky Derby Party a week earlier whipped around and exclaimed that she was the one who just committed to my work. Anonymity erased!

Post Purchase Tunes, Nosh and Lights.

It must be noted that the staff of the Santa Monica Museum during this event run the evening like a well-oiled machine. Indeed this year, having arrived early, I felt almost that the number of volunteers to guest ratio came close to a one to one.

The preperator carts whisked purchased work away for proper packing.

After numbered tags are paid for, a team of white-gloved assistants wheel carts into the exhibition and respectfully remove the piece and pack it for the ride home. The food may have been better last year but the sense of community and general good cheer can hardly be beat. I always meet wonderful new people and this year got to meet an artist whose work I admired but had never meet. Turned out that I had made friends with her daughter in line waiting for entry.


Put Incognito 2014 on your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed.


-Mario M. Muller, May 17th, 2013

also by Mario M. Muller

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