Fall is art auction season, but you don’t have to travel to Manhattan for the mega, multi-million-dollar sales to find something impressive for your personal art collection. Chicago combed through three local benefit auctions happening this October—at the Renaissance Society (October 11), Spudnik Press (October 4), and ACRE (October 4)—to find deals on work by hot emerging artists offered way below market value.

Pre-bidding is open online for these auctions, but a word of warning: If you don’t attend the benefit parties, there's a chance you will be outbid during the live events where drinks and cash flow freely. As if you need another reason to attend a fancy party, it’s for a good cause. Benefit auctions help support the operating budgets of our city's small, non-profit art institutions.

Photo: Courtesy of Cody Hudson

Cody Hudson

"Monday AM Wave Test"
Watercolor on paper, framed.
Starting bid: $55

Hudson is an innovator in the art-and-design crossover genre. Based in Chicago, he has designed objects for Converse and Letherbee, is one of the creative brains behind Longman & Eagle, and shows locally at Andrew Rafacz Gallery. Reminiscent of a windy day on Lake Michigan, this watercolor is offered at a price you’ll likely never see again for Hudson’s gallery work.

Get it: Spudnik Press Benefit.

Photo: Courtesy of Lilli Carré

Lilli Carré

"Old Friend?"
Thread on handmade paper, framed.
Starting bid: $55

In September, Chicago named Carré one of four rising artists worth investing in. While her drawings and video animations sell at the gallery for between $1,200 and $4,000, this white-on-white abstract ‘drawing’ is too good pass up; it was actually made by sculpting thread onto handmade paper.

Get it: Spudnik Press Benefit.

Photo: Courtesy of Dan Gunn and Monique Meloche Gallery

Dan Gunn

Plywood, lacquer and wire.
Starting bid: $500

Don’t call Gunn a woodworker—even though his woodcarving craft is at the top of its game. He uses wood to create elegant wall sculptures that some say resemble paintings or even textiles. Gunn shows locally at Monique Meloche Gallery in Wicker Park.

Get it: ACRE Benefit.

Photo: Courtesy of Zachary Cahill

Zachary Cahill

Watercolor on paper.
Starting bid: $600

If you know this artist, you know that hot pink is his favorite color, and this watercolor delivers it in glorious abundance. Cahill likens looking at art to a therapeutic experience. His solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art closed this past weekend.

Get it: The Renaissance Society Auction.

Photo: Courtesy of William J. O'Brien

William J. O'Brien

Colored pencil on paper.
Starting bid: $1,000

Unlike most Chicago artists, O'Brien has had two solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art (his most recent closed this past spring), and has since shown in Paris and Tokyo. He applies colored pencil so thickly that his drawings look more like woven tapestries. As with many benefit auctions, the artwork is valued well below gallery prices.

Get it: ACRE Benefit.

Photo: Courtesy of Mathias Merkel-Hess and Volume Gallery, Chicago

Mathias Merkel-Hess

"Thing 13"
Carved stoneware.
Starting bid: $2,000

Ceramic sculpture was one of the last taboo genres to be reinvented by contemporary artists in recent years. L.A.-based Merkel-Hess exhibited his “thing” series at Volume Gallery in the West Loop in the spring, and while it resembles a hive, its finger-sized holes and milky patina make it an object of tactile desire.

Get it: The Renaissance Society Auction.

Auction information

Spudnik Press Benefit: Saturday, October 4 at 7 p.m. at the Spudnik Press Cooperative, 1821 W. Hubbard. Tickets: $15-50 (includes beer, hors d’oeuvres, live music, and auction). 

ACRE (Artists' Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) Benefit: Saturday, October 4 at 6 p.m. at The Graham Foundation, 4 W. Burton. Tickets: $150 (includes cocktails, seated dinner, performances, and auction).

Renaissance Society Benefit Gala: Saturday, October 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Revel, 1215 W. Fulton Market. Tickets: $500 (includes cocktails, seated dinner, auction, and after-party).