SMFA Sale Offers Wide Range of Contemporary Fine Art

James Ardis
Published on

Since 1876, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University has offered artists an opportunity to develop their craft. The school prides itself on adapting with the times, opening in the late 19th century with a French École des Beaux-Arts focus and becoming early adopters of mixed media projects in the 1960s. Today, the SMFA allows students to build their own program of study. Each artist can utilize the school’s resources in a way that best fits their aesthetic.

A buy-now auction benefiting the SMFA at Tufts is now open until November 23rd. The sale features a range of primarily fine art pieces by friends, alumni, and students of the school. Proceeds will support underrepresented students at the SMFA who can continue pursuing their artistic vision without the burden of financial insecurity.

 Harem Revisited #51 by Lalla Essaydi
Harem Revisited #51 by Lalla Essaydi. Photo courtesy of the SMFA at Tufts. 

Harem Revisited #51 (buy-now price: USD 24,000) by SMFA alumna Lalla Essaydi is among the sale’s highlights. In her work, Essaydi juxtaposes contemporary Arab women with the traditional imagery often associated with them, such as the harem. “I wish to present myself through multiple lenses…” says Essaydi, “as artist, as Moroccan, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite viewers to resist stereotypes.”

Viewers will notice the calligraphy in henna covering every inch of the two models’ skin. This is another way Essaydi explores the ownership others have had on Arab women’s identities. In other pieces, such as Les Femmes du Maroc: Harem Beauty #2, Essaydi adds calligraphy to the floor, wall, and the women’s garments, swallowing the model whole.

 Untitled Pat Steir painting.
Untitled Pat Steir painting. Photo courtesy of the SMFA at Tufts.

“When I look at your work closely, I feel that your entire career has been a long effort to disappear.” This note on Pat Steir’s work stuck with the artist for many years. In her Waterfall series, Steir pours paint onto a monochromatic canvas. The process requires the artist to relinquish much of her control over the final composition, sharing authorship with gravity, wind, and the paint itself.

One of these waterfall pieces is on offer in the SMFA buy-now event (price: $20,000). White paint falls from two different starting points onto a dark blue canvas. Each line of paint takes its own course. Some make it to the bottom of the canvas, while some fall short or fuse with other lines. Steir sees this process as a helpful release from ego. “It’s a joy to let the painting make itself,” says Steir. “It takes away all kinds of responsibility.” 

Collectors will also have an opportunity to buy numerous mixed media pieces by twin brothers Doug and Mike Starn in this event. Working together since the 1970s, the brothers use non-traditional materials to produce three-dimensional prints. The No Mind Not Thinks No Things ribrin (price: $25,000) and nomdes (price: $80,000) are two available works. 

 Exodus by Doug Starn and Mike Starn
Exodus by Doug Starn and Mike Starn. Photo courtesy of the SMFA at Tufts.

Another example from the brothers is Exodus (price: $30,000), a print executed with a combination of tissue paper, beeswax, watercolors, and other materials. Chunks of red and white float like islands on each side of the print against the aquamarine background. The word “exodus” progressively crumbles until the last two letters are almost illegible.

The buy-now SMFA Art Sale will conclude on November 23rd, 2020 at 8:00 PM EST. Interested collectors can learn more through Auction Daily’s continued coverage or view the full catalog on Bidsquare.