June, July and August have tended for years to be the dog days of P Street Row's commercial galleries, and with yesterday's 93 degrees at 5 a.m. on Dupont Circle, one indeed wonders why that Stella print you've been lusting over can't wait until fall. But the gallery owners don't want collectors to wait, so in pursuit of an understandable objective yesterday they lauched a new two-day enterprise called the P Street Art Auction.
No, you don't have to go stand out on the steaming sidewalk and bark bids at a sweating auctioneer. But, yes, you might go home with a bargain on something like a Stella print that would be costlier when the weather is comfier.
The idea is this: For the price of a $3 ticket whose proceeds go to the nearbt Phillips Collection (for acquisition purposes only) you tour the bargain special shows 12 galleris have organized for the auction. You make what they call in the trade "silent" bids on any of the hundreds of works that might enhance you collection (that means writing an amount that will be weighed abainst the others when all the bids are in by 8 o'clock tonight. Minimum amounts are posted and any raise must be by at least $5. Special hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
At least several hundred works are hung. Jane Haslem Gallery, for instance, has bout 50, and several other dealers have at least as many. As a result of the auction, the usual serene interiors of gallery now have taken on a cluttered look, as owners have hung just about anything next to just about anything, often floor-to-ceiling, that they think will sell at what they regard as reduced rates.
Warhol looks a little incongruous next to comic book funk, and in fact, sometimes next to other Warhols.
The auction is first in this city, and Jane Haslem, who intiated the idea, thinks it is a first in any major commercial art center. And it is supposed to become annual if it makes money and the gallery owners continue to get along.
Max Protetch of the Protetch Gallery points with pride to the fact that it is "very rare when 12 art dealers can agree on anything, or even two - much less on such short notice." But the redoubtable Henri declined. "I'm just give the Phillips the $10. They of the major denizens of P street only not the joining typr I guess. I'd rather need it," she declared yesterday.
On a hot day, of course, it was impossible to get to all the galleries, but certain patterns seemed consistent. Most of the works came from the owner's own inventories and, though the art world is about as much agreed on what constitutes a bargain as the auto world on what drives best, price were clearly well below retail.
Protetch is Washington dealer for the bemused Warhol, and his summer offerings are dominated by Warhol prints. The most expensive work in the show is a rare set of prints the artist did in reaction to President Kennedys assassination. The retail lising is $5,000 and the "reserve" price for the bargainer is $2,000.
Two versions of the 1972 McGovern campaign poster that depicts a glowering Nixon are for sale. Both retail at $1,450, and one, slightly damaged with water marks at the bottom, is listed at a reserve of $500; reserve on the other from Protetch's own collection ("I'd got tired of looking at it over the breakfast table") is $750.
Another notable development was the occasion presence at these auctions of works that are put up for sale privately by collectors. There was at Protetch's, for instance, Jack Youngerman's "Deep 1961," a handsome oil from a local collection; it was bought in the early 1960s for $1,200, now carries a retail price of $3,000 and the present reserve is $1,200. Washingtonians tend to auction their art in New York, and perhaps these works are signs that a change may be possible.
The Jane Haslem Gallery show is especially diverse and beautifully hung; they repainted just for the auction exhibit and, as at several galleris, stacked works to crowd more in. Haslem's most expensive offering is Billy Jackson's "Right After Rising," (retail: $2,500: received: $1,500).[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]bargain in art, but experts who didn't [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
As noted it's hard to define a want to be named because they didn't want other expert to know it was they who were talking seemed agreed that the best bargains are likely to be among the most expensive works.
By the middle of the sultry opening day, ticket sales (out of 2000 printed) were already in the hundreds, and the biggest business is almost certain to come tonight before the opening of bids. One knowledgeable Maryland art observer, who asked not to be named, concluded:
"The gallery owners are quite honest about what they put up. Most have been true to their own artists instead of innovation, though I think there is at least one gallery that is clearly not up to standard." (She declined to say which.)
Meanwhile, business went on as usual with the regular customers, who didn't need to buy tickets and came to look at non-auction stock as well. The auction was not crimping regular sales.