Last night, Free Arts NYC held its 18th Annual Art Auction in honor of multidisciplinary artist Taryn Simon to benefit the organization’s educational arts mentoring programs for underserved youth and families.


“I can’t believe we’re almost coming up on our 20th year,” Liz Hopfan, Founder and Executive Director of Free Arts NYC told Art Zealous. “I founded this organization out of my garage in New Jersey all those years ago, so all of this has been beyond even my wildest dreams. I couldn’t be more excited about the future. We have such amazing support from companies like Crozier Fine Arts whose generosity will enable us to continue to expand our outreach. We have amazing friends in the art world like Christopher Wool and Marilyn Minter whose longstanding support over the past decades has been crucial to our success. As we near this monumental year in our history I’m really looking forward to celebrating artists like them who have made the work of our organization possible.”


Marlies Verhoeven, Waris Ahluwalia, Tara Summers


The evening kicked off with a silent auction & cocktails with music by Onyx Collective keeping the party going. Guests had the opportunity to bid on art from Paddle8’s silent auction as well as receive a custom portrait by celebrated illustrator Justin Teodoro. Each picture done in Teodoro’s signature style included a statement about the importance of arts education.



Art world luminaries, fashionistas, and cultural tastemakers gathered upstairs for dinner presented by Marni. As they sat down at tables decorated with chic floral arrangements from Aurora Botanica, guests raised a glass to toast another successful year of Free Arts’ programming and advocacy.



Free Arts Board Member and CNN’s Kate Bolduan, who acted as the evening’s MC, gave no alternative facts sadly and told the audience that 1 in 3 NYC public schools lack an art room, 1 in 4 NYC public schools lack a part-time or full-time certified arts teacher, and only 8% of NYC elementary schools meet state standards for arts education despite statistics.


“I couldn’t more thrilled with the success of last night’s auction. During these trying times when it looks like funding for the arts is about to be drastically cut, it was galvanizing to be in a room filled with so many of my friends like Sarah Arison and Sheree Hovsepian & Rashid Johnson who are so committed to keep fighting to provide New York kids access to an arts education. It was truly an honor to celebrate the work of the amazing Taryn Simon and to hear from some of the teens from Free Arts programs just how much her mentorship has meant to them,” said Hopfan who stunned in a black Marni sheath dress.


She continued, “It was particularly inspiring for a lot of our young women to interact with such a successful female artist. There’s a perception that the contemporary art world doesn’t always welcome the work of female artists so speaking to Taryn and hearing about her journey really encouraged them that their voice can be heard.”


Kate Bolduan, Emmy Rossum


After dinner, Sotheby’s Andrea Fiuczynski, who had flown in from the West Coast especially for the evening, got the bidding started on the coveted live auction lots. Things heated up as a guests battled for works by Cecily Brown and Dustin Yellin. However, it wasn’t until Marlies Verhoeven of The Cultivist and Sarah Arison went head to head for a piece by the woman of the hour Taryn Simon that the battle began. Also up for grabs were a series of studio visits with artists like Julian Schnabel, Matthew Day Jackson Eddie Martinez, and Christopher Wool. Marilyn Minter, who wanted to make sure that Fiuczynski shared with the crowd that one of the evening’s sponsors Marni was her favorite fashion label, was offering cocktails and a studio visit for 25 that also went for $7,000.


Taryn Simon, Liz Hopfan


For many, a highlight of the evening was getting to directly interact with teenagers from the Free Arts NYC’s programs that their support directly benefits. A group of aspiring teenage artists from Free Arts NYC’s Portfolio Mentorship, Creative Career Exploration, and Museum and Studio Visit Program were on hand to walk beguiled guests through their debut art exhibition. Their work on display was created over the month of April through a series of special mentorship workshops with honoree Taryn Simon. 


Taryn Simon with aspiring artists 


There wasn’t a dry in the house when one of the teenage artists went on to say he is “proud of Taryn for being a strong independent woman” and both thanked her “for being my number one fan” and assured her “I’m your number one fan.” A visibly moved Simon then accepted her award from her two young protégés and spoke to the crowd about the importance of fighting for the arts during these scary times.



Guest included Waris Ahluwalia, Zoe Buckman, Alexandra Chemla, Alex DaCorte, Casey Fremont, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Anne Huntington, Chelsea Leyland, Elizabeth Margulies, Mia Moretti, Aimee Mullins & Rupert Friend, Jake Paltrow, Polina Proshkina, Doreen Remen, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Rubell, Cleo Wade, and Chloe Wise.


To learn more and involved with Free Arts NYC click here.


All Photos // Courtesy of Carl Timpone/ and Courtesy of David X Prutting/