The word institution is overused but in the case of the Santa Monica Auctions and its iconic dealer/caller Robert Berman, it’s really true. For decades his operation has been the go-to for collectors on both sides of the sell/buy equation, as his reputation and expertise in the market for local artists and classic pieces alike has continued to grow. Aka, he knows everybody and everybody knows him, and his deep contacts consistently result in surprise masterpieces and unique offerings with compelling provenance from an eclectic range of names, styles, and mediums from vintage photography to modern street art, Pop and Chicano, Cool School, and rare editions. The next Auction coming up on June 4th is no exception — and it already feels like a party. It’s going to be outdoors; and it’s maybe going to be the last. Okay he’s been saying that for a while, but the truth is the future of Bergamot has been in limbo for years. These days the end seems to genuinely be nearing, though other tenants remain more hopeful. Berman is sanguinely scheduling the next auction for November 18, the caveat, “if we’re still here!”
In the meantime not only the auctions but the gallery programs remain robust. In fact, the next two exhibitions Berman has planned are among his most ambitious. VERY APPROPRIATEopens June 24th, and is a unique in-depth look at the genre of appropriation, in which elements of a work are directly borrowed, some would say stolen, as a formalized conceptual gesture deconstructing both authorship and context. To begin with, is appropriation really even a genre in the conventional sense? It’s more of a strategy than an aesthetic. Mediums often include photography, but not always. The presence of “mixed media” can crossover with collage and assemblage techniques. Content often includes vernacular, commercial, political, and pop culture imagery, which in turns borders on certain kinds of Pop Art critique. But Berman is nevertheless wading into the fray with his upcoming show; and coincidentally, there are a huge number of works on offer in the upcoming auction that occupy that same exciting art historical territory along the pop-appropriation-combine continuum.
After that, LA LA LA opens September 8th as part of the citywide Pacific Standard Time LA | LA edition, focused on the intertwined cultural histories of Los Angeles and Latin America. Berman’s program has always featured a relationship with the Chicano art movement, both in the gallery and the auctions. The exhibition will feature a stunning collection of works by Martín Ramírez among other gems. But this June, the auction’s offerings include just a few of the other marquee names you are likely to encounter again in the Fall.