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Drawing interest: art you can afford

May 29, 2003|Scarlet Cheng | Special to The Times

AN auction at Bergamot Station Arts Center this weekend may stretch your piggy bank, but it shouldn't break it. In its 19th year, the Santa Monica Auction takes place in the former Flowers West Gallery, and with about 300 lots on the block, works are being displayed there as well as overflowing into two nearby galleries.

Included are prints, drawings, paintings, photographs and sculpture by some notable artists from the history of the Los Angeles art scene -- John Altoon, Billy Al Bengston, Carlos Almaraz, Kim Dingle -- as well as world art stars such as Picasso, Miro, Warhol, Nevelson and Oldenburg.

Most of the works are multiples, such as prints and photographs, which makes them affordable.

Additionally, says Robert Berman, auction organizer and director of his own gallery, they're priced to move because sellers have agreed to a low reserve, the secret minimum price the seller will take for a work.

This is generally a figure "much below market price," Berman says, so the auction can be a good place to find a bargain. (Don't forget that the auction house will add its own fee to the hammer price.)

To participate, register in person or online, where offerings can be previewed. Bidding will proceed at a rate that's easy to follow, Berman insists, since this is "more like a fun event."

There will be seats inside the auction room, but bidders can also mill around outside and watch the action on large projection screens while they have a drink or a snack.

The variety of artwork is impressive. There are atmospherically mysterious photographs by David Lynch, as well as droll ones by dog-man William Wegman. There's a near-full-size painted cut-out of a yellow car driven by a dog, painted by Gilbert Lujan, a leading light of the Chicano arts movement.

And, of course, there will be works by the two reigning kings of Southern California art: David Hockney and Ed Ruscha. There are several Ruscha prints, including "Sin," retailing for $6,000 to $8,000 (bidding will start below that), and Hockney is represented by lithograph, photo collage and an "original ink on linen" -- namely, an ink drawing on a napkin, retailing for $9,000 to $12,000.

Dealer Bill Turner came in to browse the works hung up on the ceiling. "I hope I have some money in my wallet when the auction comes around," he muttered. "I see a few things I want."


Santa Monica Auction

Where: Bergamot Station Arts Center, Suite E1, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.

Cost: Free

Info: (310) 315-1937 or

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