Shhh. The Founder of Anónimo Keeps the Artists in Her Auction Series Under Wraps

Alexandra Martinez started a recurring Latin American art sale in which the creators are anonymous and the proceeds go to charity.

Alexandra Martinez started a recurring Latin American art sale in which the creators are anonymous and the proceeds go to charity.

What’s in a name? For art collectors more concerned with investing in a Koons or a Hirst than loving what hangs in their living room, everything. But you won’t find that brand-obsessed breed at Anónimo. The nonprofit art auction solicits new work from big-name artists, but the authors behind everything in the sale remain anonymous until after the hammer falls, requiring the buyers to bid solely on aesthetics.

The recurring event focuses on artists from Latin America, and each edition benefits a different charity. The most recent took place in September in Mexico City and benefitted the Tamayo museum, with buyers picking up work by Jose Dávila, Pedro Reyes, among others, though they didn’t know it at the time.

The fifth edition of Anónimo will take place in Miami Beach on Dec. 5, and this time around it will emphasize design work in addition to art. Organizers asked a group of notable designers to create small-scale environments for displaying the work in the auction, and collectors will also be able to bid on the interiors in addition to the artworks they house. The pop-up spaces will occupy the OMA-designed Faena Forum for three days leading up to the sale, which will include 35 works by as many artists and designers.

Surface spoke with Alexandra Martinez, the impresario behind Anónimo about how the project got started, the biggest reveals when the auctions have ended, and what to expect from the next edition.

Anonimo founder Alexandra Martinez

How did the idea for Anónimo come about?

I was invited to be part of the board of a very famous orphanage in Guadalajara, which is my home town. The history behind it is that 200 years ago, a priest started adopting kids from the streets and giving them their last name, which was Ruiz de Cabañas. He did such a fantastic job that in my home town, for many people, to have the last name Ruiz de Cabañas is an honor.

When I was helping them fundraise, I was thinking about the name, and the idea that whoever claimed authorship for people can be so life changing. And whoever says, “This is mine” or “this isn’t mine,” changes our whole perspective and the context of everything. We held the first edition to benefit the orphanage in 2015.

The Mexico City edition of Anonimo in September 2018

Why did you decide to hold it in Miami?

I studied at the University of Miami, and my very first interaction with the art world was the first edition of Art Basel. I was a student, and for me, it was a nuclear bomb of stimulation. When I started Anónimo, I knew I wanted to do something that would bring Mexico into an international scenario, so it was the right fit.

How did it go?

We had seven hundred guests, which was insane. I didn’t know if we were going to have fifty. That night in particular, there was so much heavy rain that the whole city flooded. It was horrifying. Traffic was terrible. But we sold out every single lot. It was thirty-three lots, and we raised, I think it was $135,000. With all the auctions, fifty percent of the sale goes to the artist. Twenty percent goes to Anónimo to cover costs. And thirty percent goes to the charity.

Work in the Mexico City edition exhibited anonymously before the auction

How do you assure all of the work remains anonymous?

When I came up with the idea of an anonymous auction, I knew it was risky, so I went and I talked to all of my artist friends and curator friends and galleries, and they helped me shape the—let’s say the rule book.

What are the official rules?

Even if they know, no one can reveal the identity of the artists in the auction. If someone reveals the identity of an artist, that work is out of the sale. Also, if the show isn’t at least eighty percent sold, then we don’t reveal any of the artists. In that case, each person that bought something will know personally what they bought, but we won’t reveal it in a public way. This hasn’t happened, but it’s important.

What if an artist has a very identifiable style?

Every artist has to send us something that they’re comfortable with having their name on, but it needs to be a new thing that they’re exploring.

Work in the Mexico City edition exhibited anonymously before the auction

Why did you start working with designers this year?

Last year we did the afterparty at the dome that the Faena hotel puts up on the beach.

After that, they said, next year, you should do the entire thing with us. So, they have given us the Faena Forum for the exhibition, the auction, and the afterparty. That’s when the whole idea of doing art and design came about, because the space is perfect to create like a tiny little fair. What we’re going to do is create these booths and each will be a specific architectural space.

So, what was the biggest surprise reveal at the end of one of the auctions?

I think each one has a memorable, let’s say, confusion. For example, in Mexico City, we had a piece that was donated from Coleccion Coppel, and a lot of people thought it was Louis Bourgeois. There was a bidding war between two buyers. It went from $6,000, which is very low but that’s how we wanted it to start, all the way up to $25,000. It was still such a great price. The one who didn’t get it thought it was a Louis Bourgeois. The person who bought it thought it was a Tracey Emin.

And it actually was a Tracey Emin. Obviously you couldn’t go wrong. Both would be an amazing buy, but it was a very nice surprise.

The Mexico City edition took place at the Museo Tamayo and proceeds benefitted the museum.

Who will be the biggest surprise in Miami?

I mean it really is such a heavy information to carry that night because absolutely everyone is trying to get that information from you all the time.

But you can tell me, right?


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