The Svane Family Foundation launches $1M commission and auction to benefit Bay Area arts community

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The Svane Family Foundation launches $1M commission and auction to benefit Bay Area arts community
t.w.five, After the Pillow Fight, 2020. Hand-cut adhesive backed vinyl on panel, 36 x 48 in.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Svane Family Foundation, launched in 2019 and focused on supporting Bay Area artists and arts organizations, announced today a first-of-its kind exhibition and auction featuring works created by 100 Bay Area artists. Titled Ark, this historic exhibition is a direct expression of how Bay Area artists endured the pandemic while envisioning our best days ahead. The foundation’s inaugural program, begun in June 2020, funneled $1M into the Bay Area art community through 100 individual, unrestricted $10,000 commissions in response to COVID-19 and the urgent need to get cash directly in the hands of artists suffering the economic fallout, where an estimated 66% of artists became unemployed at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, and 95% lost income, according to Americans for the Arts.

In September 2021, Ark will enter its final phase, where this investment in local artists is returned in artwork to be exhibited at the San Francisco Art Institute, September 7-27, and auctioned on, September 16-30. The entirety of auction bids will benefit ArtSpan, a beloved arts nonprofit currently fundraising to obtain a permanent home in San Francisco’s Excelsior district, thus completing Svane’s “giving loop.”

This unique approach to arts philanthropy touches the entire arts ecosystem by providing unrestricted funds directly to artists, a rarity in arts funding within the United States, while offering collectors and the public the opportunity to pay the investment forward and sustain artists long-term during this pivotal moment in the Bay Area. On September 18, The Svane Family Foundation will host an in-person auction party at SFAI’s Pier 2, where all 100 interdisciplinary works will be on display, spanning painting, sculpture, textiles, new media, sound, and performance, reflecting on the question: what do you want to carry into the future? Party goers will have the chance to meet the artists, see live performances, and bid.

The Svane Family Foundation is founded by Mikkel Svane, CEO and Founder of San Francisco-based Zendesk, and directed by Amie Spitler, an exhibiting artist in the Bay Area for over 20-years, and assistant to some of the region’s foremost art collectors. Ark is the first program in Svane’s long-term commitment to celebrate the range, diversity, and brilliance of Bay Area artists and inspire art collectors both seasoned and new to support their work. Artists were nominated in partnership with local gallerists, curators and fellow artists, with more established artists tapped to make recommendations of younger or emerging artists. Commission selections were determined by a variety of factors, including age, gender, race, geography, and artistic merit.

“I think of art as a great equalizer. More than your network, influence, schooling or connections, art is about aptitude and attitude,” said Mikkel Svane, “The economic fallout from the pandemic threatened the entire art scene of the Bay Area. We need the vibrant joy and raw expression artists bring to our lives.”

Commissioned artists include Dana King, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, HP Mendoza, Yétundé Olagbaju, Marcus Shelby, and Yarrow Slaps, with the interdisciplinary works available at auction expected to retail from $350-$10,000.

“A commission like this from the Svane Foundation can launch your career,” said Oakland-based sculptor Dana King, “To receive this in the middle of a pandemic was an extraordinary gift. I felt seen as an artist. It was encouragement and validation, and it allowed me room to breathe.”

For more information and the full roster of artists, please visit

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