Word spreads fast here in Marfa. Whether it’s a concert, play, or art opening, it’s not uncommon to see almost all of Marfa’s artistic community gathering at whatever event is happening that evening. This was the case last Saturday at the Marfa Book Company where the Dersu Collective exhibited and sold works to raise money for a community project. A refreshing change from usual “too cool” atmosphere of openings, here the air was charged by visitors lined up outside the gallery ready to pounce on one of the affordably priced works.
There is no doubt this was for a good cause. The Dersu Collective, which in this incarnation was formed of seven local artist, put 100% of the proceeds from this show towards building a play-space for neighborhood kids on the east side of town. The problem is simple: the kids don’t have a safe place to play, so they play in the street. The solution is also pretty simple: convert a nearby field into a safe place for them by clearing the debris, putting up fences, and installing some play equipment. The issue is money, which is where the art comes in. Selling quality artworks for $40 was a way to recycle local talent back into the community. Maryam Amiryani and Nick Terry founded the collective (named after their Malamute Huskey) to tackle “bite-sized” projects for the local community costing no more than $2500.
All generosity aside, this exhibition was an experimental one. Part live auction, part feeding frenzy, the show sold out in 20 minutes. Fueled by the knowledge that their money was going to a good cause, visitors lined up outside the gallery waiting to bolt when the doors opened promptly at 6. And they did. Pieces were purchased without hesitation, and those who needed a moment to “think it over” were left in the dust. While everyone was very polite and I didn’t see any hair pulling or elbows being thrown, the sheer consumption from the first moments of the show was impressive. Having never been to an exhibition like this before I felt obligated to watch the crowd swarming around me as much as try to glimpse the works on display.
After the commotion had settled and the tables were littered with red stickers, a moment of calmness settled in the gallery. Looking around at the sold out show it was sort of comforting knowing that all these works were going to a good home and not headed back to the flat file. In the end it was the kids over on the east side of town who will really benefit from the sales, but a part of me thinks the artworks themselves will be a little better off too.