Well, thanks to a trip to Sotheby's with my grad school class, this outsider art lover found out something I'd wish I'd known years ago. Before each season's auctions, each auction house has its wares exhibited to the public for a week or two- for free! So that means one can see the Andy Warhol print that has hung in an oil baron's house for the last twenty years, before it hangs in a hedge fund manager's office for 20 more. I recently got to see the big Impressionist collection before it went to auction - Picassos and Lichtensteins I never really knew existed. Sketches and drafts by Matisse and Courbet, the world's secret art. Sotheby's and Christie's auction everything from antiques, master paintings, photography, furniture and modern art. Sotheby's and Christie's reek of prestige. The attendants of the auction exhibitions dripped with diamonds and designer labels. It occured to me to feel like a loser, then I realized that with all the hedge and trust fund kids these days, I could very well be a rich person- well to the exhibition staff. Day time auctions are also open to the public, although I have yet to attend one. It's the evening auctions that require your bank information to enter.
Phillips de Pury and Company on West 15th Street deals with contemporary art, design, jewelry and photography. The atmosphere is much more hip and relaxed than at Sotheby's and Christie's. The business types I saw checking out the auctions were edgier, as was the art. At first I wasn't too impressed. The gallery on the second floor was cramped and full of unrecognizable art. But the third floor is the actual designated gallery space- a sigh of relief. Tons of Richard Prince paintings, Warhol, Jeff Koons, a Damien Hirst biohazard chess set, and a lot of great contemporary photography were only a few highlights. The best of every edgey Chelsea gallery in one!
For an art lover, checking out auction houses provides a unique opportunity to see art that you may never get to see- unless the successful bidder decides to take it off their walls and loans it to a museum or donates it in their wills. And the fact that it's free- pretty good deal.