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Friends With Benefits: Sales from an Exhibition Aid The Foundation for Contemporary Arts

One recent weekday afternoon at David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea, the artist James Welling was in his element peering at a portrait of a photographer looking through a lens to a future that only the camera can see—a sort of postmodern stare-down fit for a Pictures Generation pioneer. The object of his eye was none other than Faye Dunaway, preening in a scene from an old movie about a shutterbug who sees murders through her viewfinder before they happen. The film, Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), served as the source for the conceptual photo work, Woman with a Camera (2009), by the artist Anne Collier. The piece is striking, sly, and layered—and for sale as part of a 65-work benefit show for the storied Foundation for Contemporary Arts that is on view at Zwirner through January 28.

FCA has operated in New York since 1963, and its list of founders and early supporters is formidable: Jasper Johns, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Marcel Duchamp, Barnett Newman, Morton Feldman, Willem de Kooning, Yvonne Rainer, Lucinda Childs, and many more. Its purpose since the beginning has been straightforward: for artists to give grants to other artists whose art would not be the same without such support.

Grants from FCA range from unrestricted awards of $40,000 to smaller but more immediate emergency grants—applications are reviewed monthly—in sums typically between $500 and $2,000. The origin story for the entire enterprise owes to an emergency grant of sorts assembled by Johns, Rauschenberg, and others from the sale of their work to help fund a financially strapped tour by choreographer Merce Cunningham’s dance company in 1962.

The sculptor Robert Gober, who has been an FCA board member for five years, described the group’s mission as a noble pursuit. "One of the most valuable things we do is provide financial assistance to artists whose lives are dedicated to disciplines that might never be financially remunerative," he said. "Poets, performing artists, choreographers—I take great pride in supporting artists like that."

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