GLAAD Art Auction: Meet the curator

The GLAAD Art Auction & Benefit, happening Monday, November 18th, is an annual evening of delicious cocktails, passed hors d’ oeuvres, and variations of art - from music & film to human art and, of course, the centerpiece of the event - silent and live auction pieces.  From pop culture to high culture, GLAAD works to bring stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to a national audience, helping to change hearts, minds, and culture from coast to coast, and beyond.  Proceeds from this benefit enable this work to happen.  For the night's silent and live auctions, curator Adrienne Cook has selected over 60 brilliant works to craft a story that celebrates LGBT artists.

  1. What is your art background and what inspired you to become a curator?Robert Kitchen, "Hayride," 2002

I’ve always been interested in art, and for a time wanted to be an artist, but I was also very interested in the lives of artists, in their stories, in how what they were doing with their work reflected or reacted to their lives in the broadest sense. I went to Hamilton College, where I studied art history and French and that interest – not just or even mostly in the works themselves but in the artists and their lives and their places in history (or not!) – grew. After that, I went on to earn a Master’s in Art History, Theory, and Criticism at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I then relocated to outside of DC and worked at a gallery, then an art center, and then did project management work running the day-to-day of a literary prize. But I always had that pull towards storytelling, to seeing how works, alone or together, can tell stories, or can be the building blocks for stories yet to be created. Curating is a chance to, a way to, contribute to that process. 

  1. Why did you choose GLAAD as an organization to curate art for?

I think that what GLAAD does, in focusing on getting people to share their stories, coupled with how it strives to hold the media accountable for representing those stories fairly and accurately, is really vital work. Stories are powerful. Who you are, where you come from, what you do, what you see, how you see it – these are so important not just in understanding yourself but in helping others to understand you, and you to understand them. Sharing stories is so very human – it’s how we make sense of the world.

  1. What goes through your mind as you are selecting art for an art auction or benefit?

I start with just the images of the art – no names, resumes, dimensions, just printed pictures. I look for images that jump out, really strong works with a clear voice or ones that excite me instead of trying to come at it with a pre-determined a theme or any real parameters at this point. Once I’ve selected several works that will form the heart of the auction, I review the remaining works. I compare them to the core pieces until I have a selection of pieces that really fit with each other, or work against the others, pieces that participate in a dialogue with the others. As I expand my selection, I also start looking at the resumes, emerging vs. established, etc to round out the auction because I do want to make sure I’m finding a balance, as well as trying for diversity.Arthur E. Rodrigues, "Lower Balance Perfection," 2013

  1. How do you find a balance between emerging artists and already established artists?

I chose pieces that are very strong to anchor the auction because I think there should be an overall even-ness to the body of work as a whole. Those core works are a fairly decent mix of emerging and established. I tried to look at each work for what it is, so that each piece fits with the overall collection of works. In the end, I do think I found a decent balance of emerging and established – it’s not 50/50 but it’s close. I think it’s important to remember that the distinction between emerging or established has, in my opinion, less to do with the quality of the work and more to do with the artist’s career trajectory.

  1. Can you talk a little bit about the diversity in the pieces and the importance of this diversity?

I tried to let the pieces stand for themselves. I think having a diversity of artists is important, given GLAAD’s mission and work, and I think that the work also has to be strong. In the end, I think that the diversity among the works I selected reflects the diversity of the submissions.

  1. What pieces do you think are really great deals that you might find at the GLAAD Art Auction that you might not necessarily find at other art events?Salvador Dali, "L'Automne (from Quatre Saisons)," 1972

GLAAD has some really amazing pieces this year, including a Keith Haring lithograph and an Alex Katz.  However, while I was curating, I wasn’t as focused on how valuable the work was – I was mostly focused on making sure it was a strong body of work that told, or could help tell, a story.

  1. Are there any pieces that you see as being exponentially more valuable in 5, 10, 20, 50 years?

I’m very excited about certain artists. These are works that, depending on the trajectory the artists’ careers take or continue to take, could indeed be very valuable. For example, I think Eric Parnes and Arthur Rodrigues are producing and will continue to produce really excellent work.

  1. What role does media – whether it be art, movies, TV, or news – play in shaping support for equality?

Broadly speaking, media provides a platform or a series of platforms for stories to be told and representations to appear. If someone has no firsthand experience with the adversity that another person or group is facing, it can be difficult for them to sympathize and be an ally for equality.  So, getting stories out there has a key role to play in showing how the impact equality can have on people broadly as groups and personally, individually

The event will take place on Monday, November 18th at 6-9:30pm, at the The Level at Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City.  For more information on the GLAAD Art Auction & Benefit, go to