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Apr. 16, 2008 

A little more than six weeks ago, Artnet launched its new online art auctions, a custom site on the eBay model, making a market around the clock, seven days a week. With its good-looking design and inventory of in-demand artworks that appeal to sophisticated buyers, Artnet is doing a nice job in crafting a boutique auction site for hip art wares (if we do say so ourselves).

Two additional things make Artnet Online Auctions exceptional: 1) the fact that consignors are members of Artnetís online network of professional galleries and dealers, and 2) the ready access to ďcomparablesĒ -- that is, similar works that have sold at auction and their prices -- right on the page of each lot. Note as well that buyers pay no premium on their purchases (consignors pay a ten percent commission).

Artnet Online Auction highlights
Online auction sites are not new, of course, and Artnetís auctions have a lot of competition out there. Still, the auctions have gotten off to a good start, with over 50 artworks selling since the launch on Feb. 25, 2008 (remember, too, that the site is still in beta). Among the top lots was a 1981 Marilyn silkscreen by Andy Warhol that sold for $27,750, well above the high presale estimate of $16,000.

Works by the Neo-Plasticist painter Ilya Bolotowsky (1907-81) are not necessarily an "easy sell," despite the artistís historical importance. Still, New York dealer Gary Snyder sold Bolotowskyís Square in Three Blues (1979) to an online buyer for $27,000.

More recent sales have included an untitled Anselm Reyle painting (a luxuriously rumpled sheet of purple synthetic material in a deep frame) for $16,000 and a small painting by Alex Katz, Black Shoes, sold for $11,000. A Damien Hirst dot etching from Paragon Press, Pyronin Y, went for $20,000.

In the photo department, highlights have included good prices for examples of large-edition works by Gregory Crewdson, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman and other contemporary artists. Carl Fischerís emblematic color photograph of Andy Warhol appearing to sink into a can of Campbellís Tomato Soup, which was used in 1969 for the cover of Esquire magazine, sold for $6,000. The price is a record for Fischer, whose work had not appeared at auction before.

Artnetís Latin American auction
Now, Artnet Online Auctions has produced its first specialist sale, a selection of almost 40 works of Latin American art that goes on the virtual block Apr. 8-24, 2008. The sale, which is presented in a special slide show here and in its entirety here, is filled with choice items by top Latin American artists, including Fernando Botero, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Gunther Gerszo, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Jesús Rafael Soto and Rufino Tamayo.

One especially attractive lot is a beautiful charcoal and white chalk drawing by Francisco Zuñiga from 1971, titled Mujer en un Slla, which gives a wonderful Mexican turn to a Degas-esque subject. Similar works have sold at auction for between $8,400 and $11,250 -- but none of the others have quite the same art-historical resonance.

Vogue photographer Nickolas Murayís gloriously charismatic portrait of Frida Kahlo (the two were lovers), Frida in Pink and Green Satin Blouse #4, a carbon print originally made in the 1940s and recently reissued by the photographerís estate in an edition of 30, carries a presale estimate of $5,500-$7,500.

The sale also includes several classic examples of South American Op Art, notably Surmadalismo, a silkscreen print from 1970 by the Venezuelan artist Rogelio Polesello whose hard-edge color bands are very much of the period. Consigned by the well-known Ro Gallery, the work was produced in an edition of 100 and carries a presale estimate of $800-$1,000.

Even if youíre not quite ready to begin collecting art, browsing through Artnet Online Auctions may get you started. Among the eye-catching lots are a color silkscreen portrait of John Coltrane by Frederick Brown with a starting bid of $300, a black-and-white photograph of Private Elvis Presley by Bill Ray with a starting bid of $850, a 6 x 6 ft. Robert Indiana Classic LOVE rug with a starting bid of $3,200, and a Kenny Scharf Swoosh sculpture in black bronze with a starting bid of $18,000. Carpe diem!

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