Missoula Art Museum | MAM’s Big Night

Annual benefit art auction culminates in virtual event Feb. 12

Art Beat

The Missoula Art Museum’s annual Benefit Art Auction goes online this year, culminating in a virtual event, MAM’s Big Night, on Feb. 12. MAM’s signature auction, celebrating the museum’s role as a champion of contemporary art in Missoula for over 45 years, typically culminates in a large, elegant gala with a live auctioneer. This year’s event will be live streamed from the museum galleries from 6:30-7:30 p.m. this Friday, with a pre-show at 6 p.m.

The Missoula Art Museum's Big Night is free to watch and participate.
The Missoula Art Museum’s Big Night is free to watch and participate.

This event is free to watch and participate. Attendees will be entered to win prizes like six months of free bouquets from The Flower Bed, a subscription to the Wine Club from the Missoula Wine Merchants, and two VIP virtual-streaming tickets to the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

Bidding is currently open on over 120 pieces of art and one live, private dance performance from Bare Bait Dance. Recent and current exhibiting artists, like Kristi Hager and Nancy Erickson, are featured in addition to local, regional, and national artists from varying media.

The lineup also includes a stunning collection of works by contemporary Native American artists: a print by Rick Bartow (Mad River Band Wiyot, 1946–2016), a monotype by Corwin Clairmont (Salish Kootenai), a beaded landscape by Molly Murphy-Adams (Oglala, Lakota), and a glass piece by Lillian Pitt (Wasco, Warm Springs, Yakama).

While the museum is not hosting an exhibition featuring the auction art, a small display of selected pieces is on view in the MAM lobby.

One participating Missoula artist, Leslie Van Stavern Millar, notes that the pandemic has had “a chilling effect on my normal practice of showing and selling artwork.”

Galleries and museums across the state and the nation have gone to virtual art experiences or limited real-time exhibits. “Gone for now are the days of well attended openings and personal encounters with art and art aficionados, art auction banquets, lectures and hands-on workshops,” she writes.

Hence, opportunities to share and sell work are vitally important to artists and the museums and galleries that support them.

“The Missoula Art Museum is the heart of the western Montana art community,” writes Millar, who praises the auction’s array of “interesting/beautiful/powerful artwork available at a range of prices” and champions the opportunity to raise “critical revenue” for artists in Montana and beyond our borders.

Bidding on all items will close at 8:30 p.m. MST following the main event on Feb. 12. Register to participate and receive updates on the bidding site.

Getting Thru: A Compilation features over 30 musicians who have a connection to Missoula and/or Montana.
Getting Thru: A Compilation features over 30 musicians who have a connection to Missoula and/or Montana.

In continuing with the community-based celebration, four Missoula restaurants and a caterer are offering special menus or discounts to attendees of MAM’s Big Night. Participating partners include Biga Pizza, James Bar, Marianne Forrest Catering, Sushi Hana, and Rumour. Click here to view these special offers and place orders by Wednesday, Feb. 10.

While the pandemic continues to affect all artists, the performing arts have been hit especially hard. MAM has partnered with the Montana Area Music Association (MAMA) and local producers to create an opportunity for recording artists of Montana to be part of a community album that is available for purchase. This album, titled Getting Thru: A Compilation, features over 30 musicians who have a connection to Missoula and/or Montana. This 60+ track digital album is available for purchase at on Bandcamp.

Proceeds from the album sales will go to MAMA and MAM. This project was organized and produced entirely by volunteer music producers and engineers, and MAM is grateful for their investment of time and vision to embrace a wide swathe of musicians.

Over the past four decades, MAM has been a cultural beacon in downtown Missoula and in recent years has expanded its footprint to feature a gallery dedicated to contemporary Indigenous artists and an outdoor Art Park, and is home to a robust education program, including the Fifth Grade Art Experience. The proceeds from this event will help MAM stay free of admission and support these programs.