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Free fall: Aaron Siskind at Phillips
Free fall: Aaron Siskind at Phillips

I know this is deluded, but the semiannual photography auction catalogs always make me feel like shopping. With estimates reaching up into the six figures, the material is not exactly in the J. Crew range, so any spending I'm tempted to do is entirely vicarious. With all practical considerations put aside, why not splurge? Flipping through Swann's lots, I decide on Andy Warhol's Polaroid portrait of Halston, Allen Ginsberg's snapshot of William Burroughs, and Ed Ruscha's Surrealism, Soaped and Scrubbed, originally commissioned as a cover for Artforum. At Sotheby's, there's a wonderful group of daguerreotypes, especially irresistible after the show at the Met, and some extraordinary Westons, Modottis, and Francesca Woodmans, but I'll take Man Ray's knockout Rayograph With Tree, Moon, and Stars and one of Lucas Samaras's wittiest Auto-Polaroid transformations. I can't decide between two Irving Penn still lifes of gorgeously grungy cigarette butts at Christie's; and the selection at Phillips, whose pair of hefty catalogs is truly seductive, is almost too overwhelming. All right, I'll take any of the Meatyards, both of Callahan's Chicago women, and Siskind's Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 14. As always, the viewings that precede the auctions are yet another prime opportunity for fantasy purchases, as well as a chance to see more rare and important work in one week than you're likely to see in a season. Check photo listings for details.

 
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