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July 21, 2010 

Ah, the summer art doldrums, when galleries surrender to the jumble-sale esthetic of the group show, and everyone takes off for the beach. Where is the thrill-seeking art collector to go during this quiet period, with nary an auction or an art fair in sight?

Online, thatís where!

This summer, the art-market action is centered in cyberspace. And for art insiders, artnet Auctions are a great place to start, with a terrific -- and summery! -- array of lots just going up.

There are some dazzlers here: Imogen Cunninghamís luscious, sculptural black-and-white photographs of flowers; a wonderfully daft image of a fully suited man in an inner tube, from photo pioneer Jacques Henri Lartigue; an unsettling drawing of a bird demon by Cuban Cubist Wifredo Lam; an untitled 1978 collage by the ever-sought-after Robert Rauschenberg; a bulbous, thoroughly lovable sculpture made of paper plates by contemporary art star Tara Donovan.

One highlight of the present auctions, clearly, is a 1939 oil-on-board Untitled (Homage to Guernica) by Abstract Expressionist maestro Willem de Kooning. Painted years before the MoMA group show that put him on the map, and a full decade before his 1948 solo exhibition at Charles Egan Gallery, Homage to Guernica is a tantalizing look into the artistís early process, as well as a lovely painting in its own right. All waves of cheerful colors, it seems to echo not just fragmented space of Picassoís classic anti-war painting, but also the biomorphism of Joan Mirů, and the spidery abstractions of Arshile Gorky.

As to its historical significance, Homage to Guernica can be compared, stylistically, to another early de Kooning, Untitled (The Cow Jumps Over the Moon) (1937-38), which is in the permanent collection of the Harvard Art Museums. Estimate for the lot is $600,000-$800,000 -- which would be a steal considering this artistís legendary status.

Still another highlight, this one more contemporary: Gelb Gelb (Yellow Yellow) (2006), a vibrant acrylic-on-aluminum work from German color painter Imi Knoebel (b. 1940), two planes of yellow rimmed with red and blue at the top. One of Europe's top art stars, Knoebel is only now becoming sought after in the U.S., having a well-reviewed show at Mary Boone Gallery last year, and currently a full showcase of his work at Dia: Beacon. You canít beat those credentials! Gelb Gelb carries a $60,000-$70,000 estimate.

The offerings on artnet Auctions don't stop there, however. Particularly apt for the summer season is Provincetown Beach Houses (1973) by American photographer Harry Callahan, centering on a series of boxy little houses glimpsed through the scrub, clinging to the horizon like ducks in a row. The calmness of the subject is belied by the dramatic effect of Callahanís high-contrast black and white (est. $7,000-$9,000).

If it’s drama you are looking for, artnet Auctions is highlighting an entire suite of works from Iran-born filmmaker Shirin Neshatís "Rapture Series," elegant stills featuring black-robed women and men praying. Neshat, of course, just won the "Silver Lion for Best Director" at the Cannes Film Festival for her debut feature film Women Without Men -- one can only imagine that enthusiasm for her dreamy early work is bound to grow (estimates range from $25,000-$35,000 for Men with cannons, close up, to $70,000Ė$90,000 for Women in a Line).

Another item that might catch a few eyes is photographer Bert Sternís large -- 5 x 4 feet! --- black-and-white photograph of a topless Kate Moss, casually draped in fur. Photos of the celebrated model-muse are practically an art-market category in themselves, and this work is certain to be hotly sought after. The presale estimate is $42,000-$48,000.

And all thatís just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the above-mentioned lots, the current sale has works by a whole gamut of heavy-hitters: Berenice Abbott, Arman, Deborah Kass, Sol LeWitt, Sally Mann, Henry Moore, Tom Otterness, Irving Penn, Dieter Roth, David Salle, Boris Solotareff, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Charmion van Wiegand. There is also a terrific artnet Auctions dedicated No Reserve photo sale, which is really worth checking out.

So, take a look and see for yourself -- itís so easy, you can even do your bidding from the beach!

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