The easiest way to explain the distinct pleasures of INCOGNITO, the Santa Monica Museum of Art’s annual art sale on May 3, is to share my own experience the first time I attended. Here’s the setup: The museum sends an 8×10 art board to 400 participating artists, who paint on the board, sign on the back, and return it. All of the pieces are hung in the museum without identification — you only learn the name of the artist once you’ve purchased the piece (for a mere $300 this year, up from the even merer $250 in the past). Of course, many artists’ works are recognizable — a Barbara Kruger, say, or Ed Ruscha or Mari Eastman, etc. Here’s what happened with me: Raymond Pettibon was at the top of my wish list, but when I went through the galleries — which is frankly something akin to moving through Macy’s on Fifth Avenue during the Thanksgiving Day sale in, like, a wheelchair — I saw no Pettibons. Nevertheless, I did find a piece I really liked: simple swaths of black paint arched across the white board. It looked both spontaneous and sure-handed, and I simply responded to its movement and tone. I pulled the numbered tag below it — which, in INCOGNITO speak, meant I owned it — paid, then waited to pick it up and find out the name of the artist. It was, if you haven’t guessed, Raymond Pettibon, and this was the perfect art buy: I got the piece I wanted because I simply liked it and it was by someone I respected. Since then, I’ve chosen pieces because I recognized the work of artists I wanted, but I’ve also bought pieces by artists I didn’t know — and whose work I am now able to enjoy. INCOGNITO has grown in recent years, and it definitely pays to buy the higher-level tickets if you can; but even if you can’t afford the basic $100 admission, there are usually good pieces left the next day (May 4), when the entrance is free. For details, see

And then, on May 22, LACE hosts its annual Benefit Art Auction, Re:PRESENT, which features an extensive array of work in both silent and live auction. At LACE, even the food is an artful adventure (last year’s event was catered by those crazy Food Dudes). This year’s event celebrates Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions’ 30th anniversary, with artists across the decades — Harry Gamboa Jr., Dorit Cypis, Arwen and Sean Duffy, Amy Adler, Martin Kersels, Edgar Arceneaux and Steve Roden — serving as honorary hosts, Ann Magnuson playing MC, and Bonhams & Butterfields doing the auctioning. One hundred artists, from Eleanor Antin to Andrea Zittel, will donate works, and gallery previews begin May 2. Art can also be seen beginning that day at You will likely pay more for your purchases at LACE than at SMMOA, but it will also likely be bigger, and the advance entrance fee is only $50. Not to make this an advertisement for myself, but I bought my first auction piece at LACE and that artist, Carolyn Costaño, is now featured prominently in LACMA’s current exhibition, “Phantom Sightings.” Just saying …

INCOGNITO Exhibition and Art Sale | Santa Monica Museum of Art | Bergamot Station G-1, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica | Sat., May 3, 7p.m.–9:30p.m. | (310) 586-6488 |

Re: PRESENT | LACE | 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood | Thurs., May 22, 7p.m.–11 p.m. | (323) 957-1777 |

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