Huffington Post by Shayna Nys Dambrot by SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS

The next Santa Monica Auctions is around the corner, November 18 - 19 (6pm Saturday and 1pm Sunday), at Robert Berman Gallery in Bergamot Station. This time around, amid the expected salon of true museum pieces, surprises, quirky gems, and holy-grail ephemera, instead of fretting about the uncertain future of the franchise, the holdings celebrate a more recent kind of art history, with a rather sweeping mini-survey of the last two decades in LA. With the rise of street and lowbrow movements, it has been a period given over to storytelling, edgy narrative, and the elevated urban postures of the new contemporary styles that LA has given the world. There is a proliferation of early major works by luminaries of the Lowbrow and Pop Surrealism canon, with a lot of humor and experiment in both material and stylistic idioms from tattoo flash to neon and even black velvet.

Important and monumental drawings by Laurie Lipton, an absolutely joyful sculpture by Ron English, several key paintings from the first days of Faile, a charming work by real-life back-in-the-day Ed Hardy, a raw and emotional early painting by Camille Rose Garcia, a four-panel work by the Clayton Brothers, and a classic urban surf genre painting by Sandow Birk. All of these pieces are a treat to encounter again, and in realizing how many years have gone by since that universe of style stormed the art-world castle, to note how fresh and solid these pieces still are — and how far these artists have come in developing their own individual voices and shaping the voice of their whole generation

A neon-lit and gold-encrusted, lavishly heroic car painting by Frank Romero, an emblematic neon work by MONA founder Lili Lakich, an operatic, amoebic velvet and fabric collage mixed media painting by Peter Alexander, and a radically hot pink glowing wall-size sculptural megastar work by Arman 1970. It’s a total joy to be reminded that these masters of their modern mediums also had a zanier side, as each infuses the splendor or their own genre — be it Chicanismo, post-Pop, or Light & Space — with an obvious willingness to experiment with the properties of materials, with humor and zeal while also being attentive to their core formal interests of surface, texture, illumination, and movement.

But just in case we risk forgetting, the old guard demands some respect. As you scan the room you’ll see them — Warhol, Almaraz, Valadez, Longo, Held — but there’s one Ed Kienholz in particular that has one of the best origin stories around. The full detailed account is available on the site, and Alex at the gallery knows all the details, but the nutshell version is this: A couple commissioned a work from Kienholz. The artist agreed but he had strict conditions and specific instructions. He made the work and delivered it covered in a stiff tarp shell, under which it was to remain covered for a period of ten years, and it was to be paid in installments, each of which represented a chance for the deal to be revoked should they be discovered peeking. After ten years, they threw a grand unveiling party — and found a rather gruesome, if evocative, twist on a hunting trophy. Like other work of the Kienholz pair, a performative element in which the privileged position of the viewer is deconstructed with a dark wit that issues a challenge — in this case perhaps a dare to laugh at mortality. Somehow perfect.

Huffington Post by Shana Nys Dambrot by SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS

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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.

Sonic Youth's Pettibon Sells for 6X High Estimate by SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS

This tiny 8 x 10″ work of art was the basis for Sonic Youth’s album cover, Goo, in 1990. Over the weekend, Santa Monica Auctions offered the work with an estimate in the range of $20-30k.

The work ended up selling for $181,250 or slightly more than six times the high estimate. That price puts the work in Pettibon’s top ten prices achieved in a public sale, according to Artnet’s database, in the final spot.

All the works above the album cover are substantially larger and, all but one, have color in the composition.

It’s safe to assume then that the value in this particular work comes from its notoriety and pop culture relevance.

Santa Monica Auctions Offers Rare Works at Exceptional Prices, Sunday November 15, 2015! by SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS

Link to the full Huffington Post article by Kathy Leonardo

"Auctions are the most democratic way for people to buy art," said Robert Berman, owner of SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS, who is gearing up for his next auction this Sunday, November 15, at his B-7 location at Bergamot Station Arts Center. Being a collector himself, he knows what to look for and is quite discerning about what he chooses for the catalogue. "There are not enough fine art auctions in Southern CA," he continued. "I like doing auctions. I like the energy and fun and chance that it brings - you never know what will happen - it's up to the people."

Photo by Richard Bilow, SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS owner Robert Berman with John Baldessari, Guitar Series (Pink, Green, Yellow, Red, Blue, Orange), 2005, Complete suite of six 3-layer, 5 color screen print constructions, mounted to sinter and hand cut in the original Gemini G.E.L. frames, Edition of 45 *all works have the same edition number, Each signed, numbered and dated in white ink on recto, Published by Gemini G.E.L

This Sunday, (Nov 15) SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS will host a special auction featuring a rare John Baldessari suite of six prints. "Baldessari is one of California's most collected artists!" exclaimed Berman. "The Baldessari guitar series (the complete set) has never come up at auction before. Created in 2005 and published by Gemini Gel, the entire suite (in the original frames) has never seen daylight. It was bought and framed and wrapped up and put in storage. This is the most sought after of all of Baldessari's multiples."

Another highlight of the auction is a painting by David Wojnarowicz. A highly regarded artist, Wojnarowicz did not receive the same public notoriety during his lifetime as did his contemporaries Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Like Haring, his life was cut short due to AIDS, and his work was greatly influenced by his reaction to the politics of the epidemic. Berman frequented New York City's East Village in the 80s, where he first met Haring and would bring him back to LA to show at his Santa Monica gallery, which opened in 1979. "It was obvious the East Village at that time was creating art and artists who would be an important part of art history in America," said Berman.

Photo courtesy of SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS, David Wojnarowic, Cartoon Bull, 1984, Oil on canvas, Signed on verso on stretcher bar; Identification label on verso Image: 50 x 72 inches, 

Now, over thirty years later, some of the same iconic works have found their way back to the SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS and will be auctioned off this Sunday. "In this particular auction," said Berman, "there are four items which were brought to auction back in 1989-1990 that were sold at good prices, and now fifteen years later they are worth much more...they have quadrupled in value."

One such piece is the Wojnarowicz painting, which was auctioned off circa 1990 at the height of the economic crash. Berman revealed it has increased ten times its value. Wojnarowicz is now being recognized as one of the seminal artists of the twentieth century. This fall, the Whitney Museum will present a retrospective of the arist.

Berman pointed out that Wojnarowicz's diversity might have been the reason his work was not widely recognized at the time. "Unlike his contemporaries (Haring and Basquiat), Wojnarowicz was known for doing photography, performance, and film," Berman explained. "Haring and Basquiat had highly recognized styles...featuring consistent looking artwork. Wojnarowicz was doing mixed media, performance, and radical work."

The auction will also be featuring an important Alex Prager photograph titled Four Girls. Berman recalled that it sold at a 2007 exhibition titled "Polyester" (at the ROBERT BERMAN GALLERY) for around $1,000, and now it's back...estimated to sell for over $12,000. Berman added, "It one of her most sought after early prints."

Photo courtesy of SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS, Alex Prager, Four Girls, 2007¨C-print mounted, From the numbered edition of 9, Signed, numbered and dated in ink on verso¨ Provenance: Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica, exhibition tag on verso, Image: 23.25 x 27.25 inches; Framed: 25.25 x 29.25 inches

Other works to watch for include a vintage photograph by Herb Ritts (shot in 1979) of the yet to be discovered actor Richard Gere. This photo was responsible for launching Gere's career and helping to establish Ritts as a renowned portrait photographer.

An Ormand Gigli C-Print titled Models in the Windows is attracting attention. "This is an iconographic photo of the 60s...a cross between high fashion and high art," said Berman. Another highlight is an acrylic on paper by Sam Francis. Berman said, "This work demonstrates the use of this artist's most known colors, while at the same time providing an example of his acclaimed edge paintings."

Photo courtesy of SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS, Sam Francis, Untitled (SF66-166), 1966, Acrylic on paper, Signed and dated, Image: 9.75 x 15.75 inches; Framed: 20.25 x 26.25 inches, Provenance: George Page, Los Angeles (acquired directly from Artist's studio); Graystone Gallery, San Francisco; 

One more gem of the auction is a John Lennon erotic lithograph (a la Japanese erotica) from the famous Bag One series created during his time with Yoko. A retail gallery would sell it for $8-$10,000, but when buying it at auction...bidding starts at $2,000.

When asked which artist was the most sought after, Berman dubbed Warhol as one of the most collectible artists in the past twenty years, since he is collected equally around the world. "Every culture looks at the soup cans as an icon of the post modernist movement. Warhol was so prolific and was willing to sign Shepard Fairey today...he was a fine artist who was making rare cultural aesthetic work as well as pop art."

The SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS event is scheduled for this Sunday, November 15 at noon. The auction will be held at the B7 space at Bergamot Station located at 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. For more information call 310.315.1937 or visit the gallery to see a preview of the works to be auctioned. Gallery hours are: Tuesday thru Friday 11- 6pm; Saturday, November 14 the gallery will be open from 11am-8pm. Bidding is also available by phone, absentee and internet bidding as well real time bidding through Live Auctioneers.

The full catalogue is available at

Photo courtesy of SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS, Ormond Gigli, Models in the Windows, 1960/Printed Later, C-Print, AP edition of 4 aside from the numbered edition 25, Signed and editioned in ink on recto, Image: 23.5 x 23.875 inches; Framed: 35.25 x 35 inches

Photo courtesy of SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS, Herb Ritts, Richard Gere, San Bernardino, 1979, Gelatin silver print, Special print outside the edition of 25, Signed, titled and dated 1979 on lower verso of print in pencil, Annotated in center verso of print: Special auction print for A.M.F.A.R. Benefit, France 1993 in pencil on verso, Image: 16.75 x 13 inches; Framed: 25 x 21 inches

Photo courtesy of SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS, Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup II, (Chicken 'n Dumplings), 1969, Color screenprint; From the numbered edition of 250, Signed in ink on verso with edition number with rubber stamp, Printed by Salvatore Silkscreen Co, Inc., New York; Published by Factory Additions, New York, Image: 32 x 18.5 inches; Sheet: 35 x 23 inches; Unframed

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The Last Day of May Sale by SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS

Event:             SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS / The Last Day of May Sale
Date:              Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 12pm
Bergamot Station Arts Center           
                       2525 Michigan Ave. Suite A5 + B7
                       Santa Monica, CA 90404
Gallery Hours:        11:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Tuesday – Saturday

Featuring works by:  Marc Karzen (The Art of Late Night with David Letterman), David Hockney, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Ramond Pettibon, George Tice, Margaret Bourke-White, Sally Mann, Takashi Murakami, Robert Natkin, RETNA, Alex Prager

SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS is pleased to announce their Last Day of May Sale - an auction of modern and contemporary artwork of all mediums on Sunday May 31, 2015 beginning at 12PM at Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA.  

Based in Santa Monica for 30 years, SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS is the longest running independently owned and operated boutique auction house in Los Angeles. The Last Day of May Sale presents works by mid-career and established artists of all mediums including painting, photography, sculpture, multiples and prints. 

In this auction, we will be featuring a special assortment of the original unique “bumpers” - the artwork used for NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman.  From 1982-1992, Marc Karzen photographed a series of slice-of-life-moments that punctuated segments, introduced guests and branded this ground breaking show. These unique artworks were all created by Marc Karzen and have been stored in his archives and never displayed nor viewed by the public until now. (Click here for complete list of works up for auction)

Each one is a unique chromigenic-print with hand collage and signed on verso by the artist with the Late Night nomenclature included in the imagery. These beautiful, funny and creative original artworks were used multiple times throughout the eleven years that the Letterman Show was at NBC. 

Widely credited with redefining the talk show genre, Letterman is one of the most influential, acclaimed and honored personalities in television history. The longest-tenured late night talk show host at more than 33 years, Letterman will host his last show after 11 years at NBC and 22 at CBS on May 20, 2015.We have chosen 22 lots to auction as an homage to David Letterman’s broadcast career (5 lots/sets of three and 5 individual lots of one). 

A complete viewing of the 22 chosen lots can be viewed soon at our gallery space and online at We will be holding a special live preview at our Suite B7 Bergamot Station location, with the artist Marc Karzen, to discuss the halcyon days of David Letterman on Friday May 8, 2015 from 5-8pm. 

Galleries A5 + B7 at Bergamot Station Arts Center are currently housing a preview of the auction with new consignments being added daily.  The continually updated online catalogue may be viewed at our new website :


Letterman bumpers get new life in gallery photo show by SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS

by Deborah Vankin

Read full article here or directly at the LA Times site at:

Nothing says David Letterman like a greasy, New York City pizza box strewn with leftover crust remnants and crushed beer cans.

The late-night TV host may be retiring next month after 33 years on the air, but many of the photographs that ran as “bumpers” on TV before and after commercials or to introduce interview segments will make up an exhibition opening May 8 at Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica's Bergamot Station.

All of the images in “The Letterman Bumpers, the Art of Late Night” were shot by Marc Karzen, a staff photographer at NBC’s “Late Night With David Letterman” from 1982 to 1992.

“Initially we were just covering the bases, making bumpers,” Karzen says. “But these images, they started to take on a life of their own; they hit a nerve.”

Karzen would set up staged photography shoots with props, often in iconic locations around New York such as Grand Central Station and Yankee Stadium. Following a planned shot list, he’d create images he felt summed up the tone of Letterman’s show.

He roamed NYC backstreets in a rented limo, took over and temporarily trashed a Manhattan hotel room, wandered around the abandoned Natural History Museum after hours, commingling with dinosaur skeletons. He also captured serendipitous moments while out and about -- a bum on the street or copious steam rising from a sidewalk pothole -- that could work as a bumper.

Back in the office, in those pre-digital-photography, pre-Photoshop days, Karzen would print the images, then hand-manipulate them with scissors and glue or airbrushing to superimpose the “Late Night with David Letterman” text in witty, unexpected spots, like on the side of a bus. Or on a pizza box.

As a result, the photographs -- each of which Letterman personally approved before they aired -- are an interesting blend of art-directed photography and serendipitous Manhattan street life layered with hand-done graphics work. And they offer a window into a specific subset of New York that’s uniquely “Letterman-esque.”

The trick, Karzen says, was always searching for that special Letterman take on things, no matter the location. Even on an empty 747 airplane, in a hangar at JFK airport, in 1987 -- his favorite shoot.

“We had two stewardesses there, food, access to the cockpit,” he says. “We just shot from the point of view of what the Letterman show would see and do in an airplane. It wasn’t polished and pretty; it was more like airplane food on a tray after it was eaten.”

In 1993, after the host moved to CBS, that network created a new look and feel for “Late Show With David Letterman” that didn’t include Karzen’s bumpers. He kept the original photographs, though, and 20 of them will make up the exhibition along with newly printed images from Karzen’s original negatives.

“It was the job of my life,” Karzen says. “As a still photographer, seeing your work on television is a whole diff feeling than seeing it on a newsstand. The idea that millions of other people are watching this slice-of-life image at the same time, unlike now with time-shifted programming -- this simple, shared moment -- it was an exciting feeling.”

“The Letterman Bumpers, the Art of Late Night” runs May 8-24. There will be a preview of the artworks this Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the gallery, during which Karzen will give a talk about the work.

After the show closes, the original, master C-prints, with hand-done collage work and signed by Karzen, will be auctioned off at Santa Monica Auctions on May 31.

Karzen will also exhibit the works at Photo Independent, a three-day photography fair at Raleigh Studios May 1-3.

karzen pool

Spotlight On Photography Auction Press Release by SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS



Works by Irving Penn, Ruud van Empel, George Tice, Julius Shulman, Andre de Dienes, Ruth Bernhard, Weegee, Arnold Newman, Lillian Bassman, Elliott Erwitt, Horst P. Horst, Frank Horvat, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Abelardo Morell, Dennis Stock, Bert Stern and George Platt Lynes lead the sale.  

SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS is pleased to announce Spotlight on Photography - an auction of contemporary and classic photographs along with photo-based work on Saturday, April 26, 2014 beginning at 4PM at Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA.  

Anchoring the catalogue is Irving Penn’s Optician’s Shop Window, New York, 1939 (Printed 1983) gelatin silver print, from the edition of 65, estimated at $20,000/$25,000 (pictured left).

“Made at the very beginning of Penn's career, this photograph is emblematic of his life's work.  At once a still-life and a portrait, even a kind of self-portrait, this modest bit of vernacular advertising is portrayed by Penn simultaneously as a document of folk art and a work of surrealism--then at its apogee.” -John Szarkowski.

Vintage offerings include a George Platt Lynes - likely, a self-portrait - taken during an exhibition of his ballet scenes at Pierre Matisse’s New York gallery in 1941 estimated at $2,500/$3,500, an Andre de Dienes’ nude circa 1940, estimated at $1,800/$2,200 and another Andre de Dienes Breakfast in Bed portrait of Marilyn Monroe from 1953, estimated at $5,000/$7,000 (de Dienes famously hired Monroe, then Norma Jean, for her first modeling job at age 19) and two Weegee prints: Stripper in a Dressing Room, 1950, estimated at $4,000/$6,000 and Milwaukee (Woman Knocked Over in a Brawl) from 1948, estimated at $5,000/$7,000.

An assortment of iconic fashion photographs follow, among them- Horst P. Horst’s Lisa With Harp shot on assignment for Vogue in 1939, estimated at $10,000/$12,000 and Lillian Bassman’s stunning gelatin silver print of a Christian Dior corset photographed for Harper’s Bazaar in 1950, estimated at $4,000/$6,000 which join Annie Leibovitz’s 2003 cibachrome print of The White Stripes as illustrated in her monograph, American Music, estimated at $6,000/$8,000.

Renowned architectural and celebrity portraits from Julius Shulman (an Artist Proof of Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, CA, Pierre Koenig, Architect, acquired directly from his studio, estimated at $10,000/$12,000), George Tice (Petit’s Mobil Gas Station, Cherry Hill, NJ, 1974, estimated at $7,500/$8,500), Ron Galella (vintage print of Andy Warhol and Truman Capote arriving at Studio 54 in 1978, estimated at $1,800/$2,200) and Arnold Newman (John F. Kennedy at the Capitol when the future president had just become a United States Senator in 1953, estimated at $5,000/$7,000).  

Contemporary photography will be represented as well with World #9 from Ruud van Empel’s breakthrough 2005 series (pictured right), estimated at $20,000/$25,000; two fresh to auction Abelardo Morell gelatin silver prints- The Coliseum by Piranesi #2, 1994 and Map in the sink, 1996, estimated at $4,000/$5,000 each; and a collaborative print from Rashid Johnson & Hank Willis Thomas titled A portrait of Two American Artists as Young Negro Scholars from the sold out edition of 31, published by the Rubell Family Collection in 2008, estimated at $1,500/$2,500.

Previews begin April 1, 2014 in conjunction with the Month of Photography Los Angeles [MOPLA] at Bergamot Station in Gallery A5 and online at  The catalogue is ever-expanding as SMA continually considers consignments up until the weekend of the auction.  Submissions are invited via email (

2014 marks the 30-year anniversary of SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS - an independently owned and operated boutique auction house specializing in sourcing modern and contemporary fine art of all mediums.  Please visit our recently relaunched website to join our mailing list, peruse auction highlights and receive catalogue updates.