Beneath the Gavel, an interactive tongue-in-cheek play that satirises the art market and art auctions, will have its New York debut on 15 March (until 9 April) at the 59E59 theatre—a space that coincidentally once belonged to Christie’s auction house. During the performance, audience members are provided with bidding paddles and fake $100,000 bills that are dramatically shot out of cannons installed around the room. They bid on paintings by the contemporary artist Daniel Zeigler from the estate of his equally fictitious patron Haddie Weisenberg.
The writer and director Mara Lieberman, who is the executive director of the Bated Breath Theatre Company, was inspired by stories told by the auction world veteran Barbara Strongin, a licensed auctioneer with decades-long experience at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Winning bidders walk away with physical prints of the works and a “catalogue” for the auction that quotes Strongin as saying: “Nothing surprises me any more in the auction world. If you expect transparency, clear rules and guidelines, go elsewhere.”