Paddle Up for Gallery’s First Vegas Art Auction

If you haven’t yet checked out Martin Lawrence Galleries, the 8-month-old, 26,000-square-foot colossus in the Forum Shops at Caesars, we have your reason to mobilize. At 6:30 p.m. April 21, the gallery will host its first live art auction in Las Vegas. More than 1,200 pieces will be open for bidding, with prices starting at 30-70 percent off retail “gallery prices.” (Just like eBay, there’s also a “buy it now” option.)

The event is open to the public, but you have to register for a bidding paddle. So if you don’t want to part with, say, a spare hundred thou for a 6-by-6 inch hand-signed screenprint of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol, it may be best just to cruise the gallery beforehand, which is free. Hint: The pieces up for auction are marked with a little, round sticker.

What will buyers be bidding on? Here’s a tour of the types of art for sale:

Much of the auction catalog reads like an Art History 101 textbook. There are pieces by the old-school big names: Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt van Rijn, Salvador Dalí and Marc Chagall. And some pieces by the newer big names: Takashi Murakami, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney. The striking thing about these pieces is that some of them are about the same price as the designer clothing that’s sold in the Forum Shops. For example, some Picasso engravings are about $3,000, less if you’re a savvy bidder.

Interspersed among the greats are pieces that seem tailored to appeal to moneyed tourists with a few drinks under their belts. For example, there’s “Buck Shot,” a 60-by-72-inch acrylic by Robert Deyber of a big-racked buck taking a shot of Jack Daniel’s.

One highlight are the oil paintings by Felix Mas. His subjects are mostly young, beautiful women in a state of undress and near-comatose repose. If you think too much about it, his work becomes objectifying: He’s turning women into still life or they’re the thinking man’s Playboy pictorial. But the images are also incredibly alluring. You can’t not want to look and look some more.

Then there are the crowd-pleasers: Belle Époque posters and super-idealized landscapes. There are impressionistic scenes of a flower-filled, Eiffel Towered Paris by Kerry Hallam. Liudmila Kondakova also takes on Paris-scapes, but in his scenes, bicycles and mopeds take the place of that ubiquitous tourist attraction.

According to the news release, Martin Lawrence Galleries (there are a total of 11 around the country) have “helped to transform the burgeoning art scene in Las Vegas.” Whether or not you agree, this auction certainly adds a brainy new option to Strip entertainment.