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It was standing room only last Wednesday at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art for its biennial art auction, where spirited bidding on sculpture and photographs brought in a record $2 million in proceeds for the museum fundraiser.


“We’ve exceeded our goal,” said auction co-chair Annie Robinson Woods.


Some 450 art collectors, a mix of long-time SFMOMA patrons and new supporters, filled the museum’s soaring signature atrium by Swiss architect Mario Botta to bid on the 24-piece live and 62-piece silent auctions.


The highest bid of the night was $400,000, for a 7-by-4-foot colored pencil-on-paper pinwheel by Mark Grotjahn, placed by museum trustee Stuart Peterson and his wife, Gina, who also acquired an Ellsworth Kelly tulip sketch and an oil stick and coal dust gesso on paper “Study for Negro Sunshine #48,” by Glenn Ligon, whose work President Obama recently acquired for the White House. The auctioned art, much of it considered hard to find on the market, was donated by artists, gallery owners and museum patrons, many with close ties to SFMOMA.


“These are deep friendships,” said museum director Neal Benezra.


In its 76th year, the museum is poised to start work on a $480 million expansion by Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, making room for the 1,100-piece collection by long-time patrons Don and Doris Fisher, as well as works being pursued in a collections campaign launched in February.


The auction was organized by SFMOMA’s Modern Art Council, whose members also conceived of the night’s decorations with lighted pedestals paired with clear plastic tabletops and chairs.


“I wanted to have an all-white light feeling with pops of color,” said council member Candace Cavanaugh.

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