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The Missoula Art Museum's annual Benefit Art Auction last weekend raised an estimated $160,000 in net proceeds.

Helping boost the number from last year's net profit of $114,000 was a "moment of giving."

According to MAM executive director Laura Millin, auction-goers were asked for spontaneous donations of either $40, $400 or $4,000 in honor of the MAM's 40th anniversary.

It came up just shy at $39,390 with outright cash gifts from approximately 150 people.

"Everything worked for us this year," Millin said.

In addition to the "moment of giving," the event sold out its tickets, a new "Wine Wall" of donated bottles sold 90 before the live auction even started, and a number of works from younger artists earned strong bids.

The auction is the single largest fundraiser of the year for the MAM, a nonprofit museum dedicated to showing and educating the public on contemporary art from the state of Montana and larger region.

Last year, it brought an estimated $114,000 in net profit to the MAM.

In 2013, it brought in more than $110,000. In 2012, net proceeds reached $108,600, then the highest total since the recession. In contrast, the year before the auction raised $88,825.

Auction proceeds help keep admission free to the public. The MAM also holds numerous educational programs each year that teach area children about contemporary art.

This year, the MAM had 40 works each in the live and silent auctions to mark its Ruby Jubilee anniversary with the theme of "40 years of contemporary art."

The auction was launched 43 years ago to raise money for a new building – hence the difference in years.


The auction was held in the University Center Ballroom on the University of Montana campus on Saturday night. Attendance was at 470, with 60-some volunteers working the event.

Missoula painter George Gogas fetched the highest bid of the evening with an entry from his "Charlie and Pablo" series, in which he mashes up his two heroes Charles M. Russell and Pablo Picasso.

"Judith Basin Encounter: When Charlie and Pablo Negotiated for a Minimum Wage," an acrylic on panel, sold for $8,000. Its estimated value was $3,700.

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Helena-based artist Anne Appleby's "Willow and Aspen," oil and wax on panel, estimated at $10,000, sold for $7,500.

Painter Asha Murty MacDonald's painting, "A Million Miles Behind, A Million Miles to Go," a large acrylic and shellac landscape on panel, sold for $4,250. Its estimated value was $5,000.

Ryan Mitchell's porcelain and stoneware sculpture "Arrangement in White and Grey: The Weight of Gesture," had an estimated value of $4,500. The final bid was $3,500.

In addition to the bids themselves, the museum sold enough advertising and had enough business sponsorships to cover the cost of producing the catalog. Those and other outright donations covered the cost of putting on the event.

Each year, there are several "experiential items" that sold well.

This year, they included a weeklong retreat at an oceanside home in Costa Rica.

The retreat's estimated value was $7,100. The winning bid was $8,500, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the MAM.

The other item was the "Art of Food, Wine and Design," a catered meal at the home of Glenn Kreisel and Jennifer Leutzinger. The two own the Brink gallery in downtown Missoula, and their residence, designed by a Seattle architect, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal's homes section.

The catered meal by chef Andrew Dolan, wine donated by George's Distributing, and music by David Horgan and Beth Lo, went for $2,700.

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