Deep in the heart of South Kensington last weekend, in a historic building filled with quirky remnants of its storied past, there was a tangible buzz that permeated the surrounding neighborhood. From North American Street, an uncommonly intense glow of lights, energy, vibrant artwork, and excitement was visible through the large windows. As I walked closer to the building, I was struck by an even more surreal scene: a man (artist Roger Wing), hard at work carving a detailed ice sculpture. Crowds of people could be glimpsed walking in and mulling around the large space. Why was this wonderful collection of people and art commingling in such a unique space, you ask? It was the 2020 InLiquid Benefit, of course- and InLiquid was celebrating its 20th anniversary with the campaign “Everyone is a Collector!” As I entered the Crane Arts Building, I wondered if it would live up to the escalating hype and anticipation. It certainly did, and then some. The Benefit was not only a financial and social success for the nonprofit arts organization, but it was also a glittering, festive, and truly enjoyable event.
As this is InLiquid’s twentieth anniversary year, the event promised to deliver a particularly stellar selection of artwork by local artists. There was a VIP event on January 31, 2020, a family day, and the main event on February 1, 2020. The theme, “Everyone is a Collector,” succinctly brought home the idea that art doesn’t have to be expensive or inaccessible, and collectors don’t need to be art aficionados to be able to buy and enjoy art. The Benefit provided an opportunity to not only see the work of over two hundred contemporary Philadelphia artists spanning a sizable range of styles and mediums but to also bid on these pieces in the online silent auction. The prices were reasonable, and the online silent auction was easy to use; the bidding added another layer of excitement. Two large spaces, including the InLiquid Gallery Space and the Crane Arts Icebox Project space, accommodated an enormous selection of art pieces for auction, including paintings, sculpture, jewelry, local business gift certificates and events from a huge list of Philadelphia vendors, and even designer furniture arranged into a vignette replete with artwork, all put together by Marguerite Rodgers Interior Design.
The InLiquid Benefit was not only a chance to peruse and purchase beautiful, thought-provoking contemporary art, but it was also a great party. It was a unique opportunity to schmooze with artists, collectors, like-minded people interested in the arts, and InLiquid staff. It’s not often that Philadelphia gallery visitors can talk with the artist, the curator, and fellow art lovers all at one glittering show, while at the same time bid on artwork. The event allowed partygoers to support local artists and a deserving, established nonprofit arts organization. As a party, it was, of course, replete with delectable food, drink and, music. The gallery space contained tables with an enormous spread of food from diverse caterers, including Kiki Aranita (Poi Dog), Judy Ni (Bāology), Ellen Yin (Fork), Marti Lieberman (MacMart), Wendy Born +James Barrett (Metropolitan Bakery). A DJ–Corey Duncan for Friday and Maggy’s Rooftop Ariel for Saturday–played background music while they were situated outside the Icebox Project Space. And the artist Roger Wing was outdoors perfecting the ice sculpture, such a befitting location in front of the Crane Arts Icebox Project Space.
And the art? It was a stunning collection, showcasing both emerging and established artists from throughout the Philadelphia area. The walls of the enormous, historic Icebox Project space (one that actually served as an icebox for fish in its early days, adding to the eccentric intrigue of the building–see Jennifer Johnson’s artwork in the auction) were literally crammed with a diverse cross-section of art, from realism to dreamy landscapes to abstraction to eclectic styles. There were photographs, ranging from a portrait of a Philadelphia musician to a graffitied bus to nature to transcendent imaginary images, to paintings of enormously diverse styles, to sculpture of many mediums, to unique jewelry, pieces that couldn’t be found anywhere else. The event was an eye-opening experience, one that allowed the visitor to experience up close the swirling, churning, burgeoning world of creativity that exists within our city. It can sometimes be a hidden world, one which InLiquid illuminates for all of us. So if you couldn’t make it this year, just know you missed a fabulous show! And make a point to come next year. It’s an opportunity to support the local art world, InLiquid programming, and most of all give your soul that much needed creative jolt. You just might find yourself starting your very own art collection.