Holland Origin Stories: All-In

Holland Origin Stories: All-In

From time to time we get asked about certain names, phrases, stories, titles – and sometimes we gotta prove or bust some myths!

Nick Larsen reflects on “All-In”

I don’t really remember all of the circumstances surrounding the beginning of All In, though I do remember that, at that time, I had been on the Holland Gallery committee for a few years and was considering joining the Board. All In started as a fundraising idea as part of that transition, and even though I did not end up making the move, it was still an idea that everyone on the board and committee was excited about and that I wanted to see through after the ball got rolling. The very basic premise was that those of us who had benefitted from the existence of Holland’s gallery would donate a piece to the show, and all money raised from artwork sales would go back to the gallery and its operating expenses. In my mind, the show served two purposes: 1) raise funds, and 2) if it could become an annual event, it would also be a snapshot of all of the visual artists who were working in the greater Holland orbit at any given time.

In terms of the structure, I didn’t want to do a silent auction, as I had donated work to enough silent auctions to know that they can be a real bummer. Attendees often wait until the very end to try to snatch up work for cheap, and I remember seeing work I’d donated sell for like $20 and kind of wishing I had just donated that amount of money instead. The “everything is $100” setup allowed artists to know what their work would sell for and to select work that they felt comfortable selling at that price. If it didn’t sell, it went back to them, but no one had to worry that a piece of theirs would be bought for far less than the artist thought it was worth. On the flip side, that setup also gave attendees a very easy art-buying structure to engage with. They knew that for $100 they’d be able to get something, and many artists donated work that would sell for far more than that in a different context. The effect this had was rather than the “wait-and-see” approach that folks often take at silent auctions, it created—from the very first iteration of All In—a situation where people came ready to buy, knowing that if they hesitated on something they were interested in, the person behind them could snatch that artwork’s tag, and that would be that. In subsequent iterations of the show, this led to people lining up outside Holland before the doors opened and buying the majority of the work in the first half-hour of the show.

There is a photo in the Holland archives of a line outside the space, and my dad is maybe third to get in. I remember that iteration of All In the clearest because he showed up early to buy my piece, which is both very sweet and very embarrassing. He told me later he was worried no one would want to buy it, and he didn’t want me to be bummed if that happened. The last few years, I haven’t been able to see the shows because I’m not living in the area, but seeing the work that gets donated on social media, it still seems to be an event that people take really seriously and get super excited about. Always hurts my heart a bit that I can’t be there for it.