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ARTNET GOSSIP
by Rosetta Stone
 
Darlings, lots are selling like hotcakes at the online Artnet Auctions, and now we’ve really moved into the big time. The current "Modern + Contemporary Sale," Oct. 29-Nov. 12, 2009, has a ton of big-ticket items, ranging from a rare pastel pictograph by Ab-Ex pioneer Adolph Gottlieb (est. $150,000-$200,000) to Damien Hirst’s 2007 Beautiful Aurora spin painting (est. $290,000-$350,000).

I especially like the Michael Goldberg abstraction from 1960 (est. $35,000-$40,000) -- interest in his work has soared since his death in 2007 -- and the painting of the mystical, seven-eyed pooch by Francis Picabia (est. $15,000-$35,000).

Mike Bidlo’s "Not Pollock," a 3½ x 5 ft. Study for Lavender Mist from 1983 is another must-have. The estimate is $75,000-$95,000. And be sure to buy the lovely and undervalued color study by Charmion von Wiegand, Homage to the Square (1960). It’s estimated at $20,000-$25,000. So many artworks, so little wall space!

Also on tap at Artnet Auctions is "Faces & Figures," Nov. 10-19, 2009, an unbelievable collection of 375 photographic portraits of artists, actors, celebrities and other pop-cult figures by 185 modern and contemporary artists. Bert Stern’s close-up of a freckle-faced Twiggy from ca. 1967 in a bright blue robe is too luscious for words (est. $800-$1,200), while the photo by Godlis of Patti Smith on the Bowery in 1976 is irresistible as well, if for completely different reasons (est. $1,200-$1,400).

These days, the nude is more than just an object of the male gaze, as Kate Moss has morphed into an icon of contemporary beauty and Carla Bruni has become the First Lady of France. Prices for photos of these femmes in the buff reflect their new superstar status, and the "Faces & Figures" auction includes several works in this vein.

Surely the most irresistible is Mark Seliger’s photo of the indubitably healthy Heidi Klum -- in a see-through red net swimsuit -- in the Charlie’s Angels-era pose made famous by Farrah Fawcett. I count three reasons to buy the photo right there. The presale estimate is $7,000-$9,000.

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Now, dearies, let me ask you, have you ever wondered what goes on in those avant-garde art galleries late at night, after we’ve all gone home? Would you believe topless young women, dancing around with slices of cake to the song Hey Mickey?

So it was at Haunch of Venison in Rockefeller Center on Nov. 3, starting at 9:30 pm, when the American Patrons of Tate threw a little party. Artists Rob Wynne, Marina Abramovic and Mickalene Thomas (the "Mickey" of the topless girls) teamed up with master pastry chefs from Del Posto, Sant Ambroeus and Daniel for a blow-out event that proved popular, to say the least. Sweet!

The scene had an uncanny resemblance to Kees van Dongen’s Masked Ball painting of 1904 -- 105 years ago -- which had just sold at Christie’s New York earlier in the evening for a tasty $2 million. Some things never change!

However pointless, the Tate cake blowout was the kind of big show that is New York’s specialty. So it was as well at the Performa09 gala, held on Oct 30 at X-Initiative on West 22nd Street, where throngs of happy art-worlders faced a huge pile of peanuts on one floor and on another a still more huge pile of cold, greasy spareribs drizzled in sticky honey. Jennifer Rubell’s bacchanalian feast turned out to be less than appetizing, but everyone had fun all the same. 

A big subject, too, for reigning American Neo-Expressionist Eric Fischl in his new paintings of the Corrida de Toros at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea, monumental and moody treatments of a motif well worn by everyone from Francisco Goya to Pablo Picasso. Not a speck of irony in Fischl’s lonely scenes, just the surrealistic space where man faces his own obsolescence! You can have one for $1.1 million, a nice price. Good for you, Eric.

Speaking of prices, all nine works from the 1980s by Peter Halley at Mary Boone last month were tagged at $300,000, and all were marked with red dots.

Across the pond in London, word is that the entire lot of Damien Hirst skull paintings, about 40 of them, that he had on view first in Kiev and then at the Wallace Collection were sold for $50 million, all to one buyer, presumably Ukrainian steel mogul Victor Pinchuk. Some gossip is just too unbelievable to be true.

Down on the Lower East Side, in the heart of Manhattan’s new Bowery art district, Spanish curator Lara Pan has put together a nutty show called "Pandora’s Sound Box" for the nonprofit White Box space at 329 Broome. One highlight is French troublemaker Pierre Bismuth’s Bruce Nauman Project, an installation that proposes to find a successor to the great 1960s avant-gardist (who is, of course, far from needing one).

A little further west, at Rachel Uffner Gallery on Orchard Street, is still another homage to a Conceptual art pioneer. Inspired by that Dennis Oppenheim action from 1970 when he sunburned the outline of a book on his chest at the beach, Brooklyn artist Barb Choit collected a bunch of ’80s-era Patrick Nagel art posters of sexy girls and subjected them to UV-tanning beds! Photos of the results, mounted on Plexi, start at $1,900.

Say goodbye to Michael Steinberg Fine Art, which closed with an exhibition of landscapes by Donna Moylan, Cora Cohen, Amy Yoes, Linus  Coraggio, Lydia Dona, Medrie MacPhee and Amanda Church were among the artists who showed there.

Financier Andy Pilara plans a huge, 27,000-square-foot photo center in San Francisco, insiders say. The Pilara Family Foundation would have more space than the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Watch for the Baer Faxt charity golf tournament next year, organized to benefit the Andrew Glover Youth Program, for which Josh Baer serves as board chairman. See www.agyp.org.


ROSETTA STONE is a New York writer.