On September 11, 2015, the Edmonton-born underground art collective MINBID held their 14th art auction event at Latitude 53 downtown. The walls were lined with eclectic, edgy art, and the event featured a live art battle, drinks, local DJs and break-dancing performances. The gallery was packed with art enthusiasts, local artists, and young professionals by the end of the night. It was trendy, vibrant, hip – an event that you would expect to see in a large metropolitan city like New York, but in actuality, started with very humble beginnings here in Edmonton.
MINBID, short for minimum bid, is a collective of Canadian artists hosting modern pop-up art auctions. It was started by Darren Bolz, Marcus Coldeway, Michel Cote, Jamie Law, Vicky Mittal, and Michael Rogers. When I spoke with Darren Bolz, Marcus Coldeway and Jamie Law at the event, their passion for MINBID and the artists they represent was definitely evident. I got to chat with Jamie briefly before he and Marcus fought it out in the live art battle, with Darren as the host, and with Marcus after the event to determine the essence of MINBID.
What is MINBID and how did it start?
“We started with six artists that were all doing shows independently, and Marcus came up with the idea for MINBID. We came on board and we had huge success with our first show. It grew very rapidly for us in the first six months,” Darren recalls. MINBID is unique in that they are For-Profit-For-Artists, in which they keep costs low to allow for the majority of profits to benefit the artists they represent. The crew’s vision of promoting local artists and reaching new audiences while giving art enthusiasts the opportunity to discover incredible art at affordable prices was an instant hit. “Part of the reason we made it an auction and called it MINBID is because artists often have a tough time dealing with pricing their work when they first start out. We really found that it made it easier for them to price their work at a minimum bid and let the market decide the true value,” Marcus explained. As artists themselves, Jamie a tattoo and stencil artist, Marcus working with abstract art and digital design, and Darren in conceptual art, they understood the struggle aspiring artists go through in learning how to promote their work, creating demand and building recognition. “Being able to give back to allow the artists to have the entrepreneurial side and to allow them to expand has been a whirlwind.”
How did MINBID grow into what it is today and how did it start expanding to other cities?
We are still caught by storm by how rapidly it has taken off. In our first year, we did five shows in five months. The group of artists in the first year kept making work and we kept selling it. I couldn’t keep stuff on my walls. – Marcus Coldeway
The organization is firm on supporting local artists and working closely with local businesses to host their events. They had their first show at Vacancy Hall in the basement of Mercer Warehouse back in 2013 and have been growing ever since with shows expanding to Calgary and Vancouver, now representing over 150 artists. “At the first show, we were approached by a couple of people who were doing events for Councillor Scott McKeen and his campaign,” described Marcus. The campaign party was impressed by their event, and they partnered with MINBID to create another show. This partnership initiated the momentum for MINBID to expand on their shows. “In the first year we were doing really raw, rugged underground art auctions in lofts and warehouse spaces. We had kegs of beer and party cups, just renegade bar kind of style,” Marcus explained. The group wanted to distinguish themselves from the other art shows that seem inaccessible to most, with steep price ranges. “We are still caught by storm by how rapidly it has taken off. In our first year, we did five shows in five months. The group of artists in the first year kept making work and we kept selling it. I couldn’t keep stuff on my walls.” In the second year MINBID became more recognizable and they were able to work with more local businesses like Coup Boutique and Workhall downtown. They started to set a new precedent to the kind of shows they were delivering, and it escalated from there. “We set some crazy goals of going to Vancouver and Calgary and looking to do shows in Hong Kong, but then six months into the year we started to achieve some of those goals.” The group has now had successful pop up shows in Calgary and Vancouver and are now working with Latitude53, Harcourt House and Open Space.
It’s not traditionally thought of Edmonton to be such a growing hub for artists. When did that culture kind of shift and that momentum start to build in Edmonton?
“The arts community in Edmonton has been very, very nurturing in many different facets, not just fine art, street art but also other art mediums,” Darren stated. Marcus agreed that there is a big entrepreneur spirit in Edmonton. “When we create something in Edmonton, we are not just pulling from the best in our city, we are pulling from the best of the best in the world.”
“It keeps us on our toes to make sure that we are bringing the best events that we can for the artists that we are representing and for the people that come and support those artists,” Darren stated. He also touched on the growing number of young professionals in the city that has helped support the continuously growing sophisticated culture in Edmonton. “In the last five years, there’s been a shift, in terms of it just all of a sudden seems like we’re the younger middle age demographic. All of a sudden there are younger professionals who are able to support that culture. So cool things like coffee shops and art shows…there are so many creatives in this city that are so humble, and that’s the beautiful thing about Edmonton.”
The arts community in Edmonton has been very, very nurturing in many different facets, not just fine art, street art but also other art mediums. – Darren Bolz
I’m really looking forward to seeing where MINBID heads next and where they will expand to. There are many talented artists in this young and evolving city and many inspiring talents have come out of Edmonton. As they move toward the future, MINBID is looking to expand to Toronto in 2016 and is looking at the possibility of opening chapters in every major Canadian city in the future. Perhaps one day, we will even see them in major metropolitan cities and art markets of the world like London and New York! To check out MINBID’s upcoming events or if you are an aspiring artist looking to get featured at their event, check out their website at www.minbidauctions.com.
Photography courtesy of Yuetong Li.