A.C.E. Series:

Emerging Artists at the Contemporary Arts Center

Since its founding in 1939, the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center has provided a platform for modern artists on the cusp — from Picasso and Miro, to Andy Warhol and Nick Cage. Among the few institutions in the U.S. that doesn’t have a permanent collection, the CAC works with artists to exhibit “What is being created at this present moment,” explains Raphaela Platow, Director and Chief Curator. With a long history of fostering visionaries before they’re well known, the organization typically develops a dialogue with a creator which often results in a survey exhibition of the artist’s work or a show of original pieces. “We are in constant flux; nothing stays in the building,” explains Platow, of the vibrant, artist-focused institution. “Most of the pieces in this auction came into being as commissioned works from relationships we’ve developed with artists.”

Previously based in different locations throughout the city, the CAC moved into its own Zaha Hadid-designed structure in downtown Cincinnati in 2003. The second building ever executed by the legendary architect — and her first in the United States — the now-iconic museum draws design references from Russian Constructivism, puzzled together in various cubic forms, with a black staircase that zig zags throughout its interior. “On the inside Hadid’s desire was to create an architecture that almost pushes you forward,” explains Platow. “We don’t have a white box here, it’s a unique architecture, so every exhibition project that we execute has to be done with the space in mind. The works in this collection — including pieces by Bernard Tschumi, Dasha Shishkin, Keith Haring, Michael Graves and Damian Hirst — are extraordinary pieces that artists created for us, and they were pieces that we hadn’t yet sold, or decided to keep in our own inventory for future fundraising opportunities. We’re this cradle for artists who you now find in history books.”

A.C.E. Series: Emerging Artists at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center
A.C.E. Series: Emerging Artists at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center
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A.C.E. Series: Emerging Artists at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center


Ten years ago, in partnership with Formica, the CAC invited famous architects with buildings in Cincinnati to create an object that could be “Sat upon, laid upon or played upon.” “Zaha came up with this amazing sculptural piece,” says Platow, of the chair-like work in the auction. “It was one of three that she made. Formica has one, Zaha installed one in her office, which is still there, and now, the third is up for sale.”


“The posters are interesting because they’re original pieces advertising the traveling exhibition that became a victim of the culture wars in 1989,” says Platow. The CAC was the second stop of A Perfect Moment, an exhibition of the artist’s work that traveled the country. Due to the explicit nature of some of the works, the Center and its director were charged with obscenity. A jury famously decided that Mapplethorpe’s works were not pornography, and that the institution had the right to exhibit expressions of all artists. “They’re incredible and rare collectibles that represent the right of artists to free speech, even if the work they’re creating is not liked by everyone,” Platow explains.


Fairey’s prints in the collection are from a show the CAC put on with the artists in 2009, shortly after he became nationally known for creating the Barack Obama’s “Hope” campaign poster. “He also did several murals throughout the city,” notes Platow. “And a signed one is in the sale.”

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