Going. Going. Soon-to-be-gone.
The "Party Animals," those decorated donkey and elephant sculptures that graced the District's downtown and residential neighborhoods this summer, go on the auction block tonight to an adoring public that has already bid $500 to $2,800 to own a pet piece of street art.
Forty-three of the most popular sculptures and 16 miniatures will be auctioned from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Woodley Park. They were chosen for auction by an independent arts panel, whose members each selected their Top 10 favorite sculptures.
An additional 191 full-size sculptures and 39 miniatures are being sold online to the highest bidder, with sales to end Oct. 30 or 31, depending on the bidding schedule of each animal. The minimum bid on nearly all of the sculptures is $500.
In pre-bidding activity, "50 Feathered Friends and Flowers," the sculpture that greeted Metro riders at 11th and G streets NW, has drawn the highest offer so far, at $2,800, according to the auction Web site. The whimsical "Watermelophant" that was outside a Fresh Fields store on P Street NW has attracted 16 would-be owners who have pushed the bidding up to $1,550.
There are no bids yet for "Arty Party I" and "Arty Party II," the sculptures that were exhibited outside the Corcoran Art Gallery. One features the fronts of an elephant and donkey; the other manages to combine their backsides. The pieces were created by famed artist Seward Johnson, whose works normally sell for $30,000 to $100,000, so auction organizers have set the minimum bids at $2,000 each.
The auction's proceeds go to the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which will use the funds for grants to artists and art education programs.
"We hope to see some of the sculptures on the streets again," said Tony Gittens, the commission's executive director. "Many of the restaurants and some of the private buildings enjoyed them so much, they would like to get them back."
The "Party Animals" street art project was launched in April and was the largest public art initiative in the history of the District. Intended to reflect the two major political parties in the nation's capital, the works by local and national artists were displayed in numerous D.C. neighborhoods, as well as traditional tourist spots.
Each full-sized sculpture weighs about 800 pounds, including a 650-pound base. The miniature sculptures are about four inches high and weigh roughly eight pounds.
Despite some problems with vandals -- a few sculptures didn't survive the summer -- the donkeys and elephants proved "a huge success" with both out-of-towners and residents, Gittens said.
"It's a wonderful example of how the District government and the federal government and the business community and the cultural community can work together to benefit the whole city," he said.
The sculptures for sale at the auction and online are on display at The Gardens of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2660 Woodley Rd. NW.
Auction activity can be viewed at www.PartyAnimalsDCAuction.org. Tickets for tonight's live auction cost $100 and may be ordered through TICKETplace.org, or by calling TICKETplace at 202-842-5387.