Thanks in large part to a Ray Ellis painting of Edgartown harbor that was auctioned for $120,000, the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust raised $350,000 for the conservation of its historic buildings and properties across the Island at the annual Taste of the Vineyard fundraiser this past weekend.
Between the silent and live auction, the trust raised $225,000 (including the painting) at the annual patrons’ gala Saturday night — the trust’s biggest night of the year, executive director Chris Scott said yesterday. The remainder of the funds came from ticket sales for the event itself.
“That means we’ll be able to keep taking care of buildings the way the community would like us to,” Mr. Scott said. The preservation owns many of the old buildings across the Vineyard, including the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs, the Grange Hall in West Tisbury, the Dr. Daniel Fisher House in Edgartown and the building that houses the Vineyard Gazette.
The painting, titled On the Beach at Chappy, was an “absolutely spectacular” painting of the Edgartown lighthouse from the Chappaquiddick side, Mr. Scott said. “The painting was terrific, one of the best of his I’ve seen. Ray is just a national treasure, as far as I’m concerned.”
Mr. Ellis, who is 91, is a regular contributor to the trust’s auction. His works, and last year’s items of clothing, have drawn high bidding wars. Two years ago, one of Mr. Ellis’s paintings went for $250,000, a Vineyard auction record. Last year, a patron bought his tie right off his neck for $150,000.
The winner this year was seasonal resident Pat Morgan of Edgartown. Ms. Morgan lost the bid on the famed $250,000 painting two years ago, but won with a $65,000 bid for a painting by Mr. Ellis in 2008.
The patron who won the tie and the $250,000 painting, Scott Earl, was unable to attend the auction this year, Mr. Scott said. He counts Mr. Earl and Ms. Morgan among regular gala guests who continually return to support the trust.
A total of 250 people attended this year’s special event.
“One of the strengths that the trust has tried to develop is there are a lot of people in the tent that felt like they wanted to help us,” Mr. Scott said. “These kinds of auctions . . . are not so much about winning a thing but about helping the organization you’re there to support.”
Other live auction items included $12,000 for a trip to New York city to see the Late Show with David Letterman with two nights at the St. Regis Hotel and transportation on a private jet; a $6,000 custom-made flag pole; a $10,000 trip to Nantucket on a luxury yacht; and a $10,000 set of 50 custom ties from Vineyard Vines.
Bidding for the painting lasted two minutes. Mr. Scott attributed the speed of longtime auctioneer Clarence A. (Trip) Barnes 3rd to raising the price tag in “very aggressive increments of $20,000 and $25,000”.
Mr. Barnes “has been doing this for a long time and helped a lot of organizations and he has sense of crowd and sense of the auction items and very quickly he can see what interest is in them,” said Mr. Scott.
The starting bid was $25,000, at which point “a lot of hands went up and [Mr. Barnes] decided to go for it,” Mr. Scott said. “It was very efficient . . . when we got above $75,000 it was down to two people and Pat Morgan prevailed.”
“There was spirited bidding, and to go through $120,000 is a testament to Mr. Ellis’ skill as an artist and the way people feel about him,” he continued. “It was a very gratifying moment. Hopefully he’ll be giving us paintings for many more years to come.”
The high price tag for the painting was the culmination of the two-day event for the 27th annual Taste of the Vineyard. The Taste, as it has become known on the summer streets, kicked off Thursday night with the popular gourmet stroll, where restaurants across the Island showcase their food in one bite. The event drew 850 guests to sample finger foods, beers and wines. Tickets sold out within the same day of sale on May 25.
On the night of the Taste, Mr. Scott said he is always amazed at its continued success.
“These types of events don’t usually last that long, but this one has been a main stay for 27 years,” he said.
Chef Raymond Schilcher remembered the first Taste that took place in one small tent on the corner of the Daniel Fisher House property, compared with Thursday’s sprawling tent scheme.
“It’s interesting to see it grow,” he said. “The best thing about the Taste has always been seeing all of my friends,” Mr. Schilcher said. He prepared an escabeche of Island bluefish, a tapas dish. “It feels great to be here, like I never left.”
Making your way through the tents of food required elbows, patience and balance. Booths from the Lambert’s Cove Inn, Right Fork Diner, l’etoile, Beach Plum Inn, Among the Flowers and Offshore Ale were among the more than 75 vendors this year. The Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group’s raw bar was emptied within an hour.
Chilmark shellfish constable Isaiah Scheffer helped shuck 900 oysters and 500 littlenecks.
“Practice makes perfect,” he said with a smile.
This was the fifth taste for Malcolm and Judy Hall, seasonal visitors who invited guests to join them on the Vineyard just for the event. Mrs. Hall characterized the event that has become a harbinger of summer.
“Oh my God, I just love all of he excitement, the fashion, the girls in high heels who look like they’re going to die before they even get to the bar,” Mrs. Hall said at a coveted secured table with her guests. “And of course the food.”