Auction brings art to masses 

click to enlarge Modern master Mixed-media graphics by Takashi Murakami are among the works for sale at the Martin Lawrence Galleries Fine Art Auction on Saturday. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Modern master Mixed-media graphics by Takashi Murakami are among the works for sale at the Martin Lawrence Galleries Fine Art Auction on Saturday.

Offering works by Picasso, Miró, Chagall, Dali, Andy Warhol and Rembrandt, Martin Lawrence Galleries could rival a museum.

But museum art can’t be purchased, which is why the Union Square gallery’s auction Saturday at the Stanford Court hotel in The City is so exciting. (Other Martin Lawrence Galleries in San Diego; Oak Brook, Ill.; and New Orleans are hosting similar events.)

“Museums are wonderful places,” says Chadwick Johnson, managing director of Martin Lawrence San Francisco, “but you can’t take it home. The best part about the gallery experience, or our auctions, is that you can actually buy it and hang it on your own wall. It makes it personal.”

Saturday’s auction features more than 1,000 works by 70 artists, including a very large Warhol painting, a 1977 Chagall painting, sculptures and prints by art deco paragon Erté, a vast selection of original European art nouveau posters, mixed-media graphics by Japanese zeitgeist Takashi Murakami and more.

Prices start as low as $595 — affordable considering the star-studded roster. Many of the lower-cost pieces are prints signed by the artists.

“Chagall loved the art of printmaking and original lithographs,” Johnson says. “It’s hard to find anyone who was better at it than him. He was involved in almost every step.”

Entry-level collectors often purchase prints before graduating to paintings and sculptures.

“It’s not unusual for someone who buys a major Andy Warhol piece to have started out with a $2,000 graphic work,” Johnson says. “I didn’t know until I started working here that you could own your own Picasso print for a couple of grand. It impresses a lot of people who visit the gallery.”

A big player on the fine art circuit, Martin Lawrence has 11 branches, including a new 26,000-square-foot space at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas; it’s the largest private art gallery in the world.

Warhol and Keith Haring, who worked closely with Martin Lawrence Galleries before they died, remain two of the most popular artists in all 11 galleries, but the Bay Area has a special fondness for them.

“San Francisco has a thirst for pop art,” Johnson says. “People arrive at our Union Square gallery and can’t believe we have Lichtenstein, Warhol, Murakami and Basquiat for sale — and they’re of all ages. We get 60-year-old women who ask to see Keith Haring, which is fantastic.”

Martin Lawrence Galleries Fine Art Auction

Where: Stanford Court, 905 California St., S.F.

When: 6:30 p.m. preview; 8 p.m. auction Saturday

Tickets: RSVP required

Contact: Call (415) 956-0345 or visit

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