Unframed Benefit Auction: Insights from Artist Jack Pierson

Unframed is an annual benefit dedicated to the fight against AIDS. ACRIA and the artistic community have collaborated for years in raising funds that have helped over 13,000 individuals annually. Initiated by Ross Bleckner, who hung 100 drawings for sale in his studio in 1993, the benefit has achieved incredible success. Since then, Unframed has seen the involvement of hundreds of prominent galleries and artists including Félix González-Torres, Richard Serra, Jack Pierson, Nan Goldin, Louise Bourgeois, Vik Muniz, Cindy Sherman and many others. Artsy spoke with artist and board member Jack Pierson:

  • Jack Pierson, Brooklyn Nocturne, 1996; Courtesy of the artist

    Jack Pierson, Brooklyn Nocturne, 1996; Courtesy of the artist

Artsy: How did you become involved with ACRIA?

Jack Pierson: I created an edition for ACRIA’s Unframed IV in 1996 alongside Louise Bourgeois, Nicole Eisenman, Roy Lichtenstein, Alex Katz and many other fantastic artists. Ross Bleckner [artist, ACRIA co-founder, and longtime Board President] then began inviting me to the organization’s Holiday Dinner about 10 or 12 years ago. These dinners had so much warmth and community spirit about them that joining the board became an attractive idea. Stewart Shining [a fellow photographer who followed Ross as Board President] guided me through that process and I’ve been involved with the board and the ACRIA Advisory Council for the past five or six years.


A: ACRIA’s Unframed first benefit event was held in 1993 and has grown exponentially since then. What, in your opinion, is the reason for their great success?

JP: Unframed has always rallied the creative community to participate in a fun, inclusive event where both creators and collectors could take part with out too much effort. It’s always been a cheap ticket to attend, with a wide output of artwork to buy, and all for a meaningful cause. The success truly comes from the amazing artists who have continued to participate over the past 26 years and who care so deeply for the cause and the work the ACRIA Artists Ending AIDS Fund supports. I don’t think when Ross Bleckner hung 100 drawings in his studio in 1993 he could have imagined we’d have raised over $7 million for ACRIA and had over hundreds of artists participate since then.


A: Why do you believe it is so important for Artists to be involved in non-profit organizations like ACRIA?

JP: As an organization ACRIA, specifically, was initiated by artists and other creative people at a time when funding for research needed desperately to be found and they turned to their communities to do that. Artists at that time didn’t just participate, they activated the whole field and were essential to pushing the work of this organization, and so many others forward. I feel that as a beneficiary of that spirit and drive, and as someone who believes in the work that ACRIA and GMHC do, it’s my duty to carry it onwards.


A: Can you tell us more about the artwork you are donating for the cause?

JP: This is the fifth edition I have created for ACRIA. For this work, I was commissioned to make portraits for L’Officiel of this incredible, renegade, young, out pop star, Troye Sivan. The artwork, a new edition of 50 that I made for this year’s Unframed, was my favorite of the portraits but in the end, it didn’t get used for the editorial. So, what better thing to do than create a new fundraising edition from it.


  • Jack Pierson, Troye Sivan, 2018; Courtesy of the Artist

    Jack Pierson, Troye Sivan, 2018; Courtesy of the Artist

A: You were a member of the so-called Boston School of artists, which included David Armstrong, Philip-Lorca   diCorcia, and Nan Goldin - How do you believe this has shaped your career as an artist so far?

JP: I am grateful for long term, supportive relationships between intergenerational artists. This was one of the things I learned in the environs of what is known as the Boston School. But, if anybody has taught me the value of activism, it’s Nan Goldin. We share friends that we’ve lost, and her commitment and involvement has always been very inspiring to me.

  • Jack Pierson, Tithe, 2012

    Jack Pierson, Tithe, 2012

  • Jack Pierson, Hot Dogs at Sunset, 2003

    Jack Pierson, Hot Dogs at Sunset, 2003

  • Jack Pierson, Miles at Sunset, 2017

    Jack Pierson, Miles at Sunset, 2017

Explore Unframed: A Benefit for the ACRIA Artists Ending AIDS Fund at GMHC on Artsy, and place max bids on 40 artworks. Bidding closes on Wednesday, June 27th, at 5:00pm ET.