Peter Loughrey, founder and principal auctioneer, Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA), February 23, 2014
ArtBlitzLA had the opportunity to talk to the Los Angeles auctioneer, Peter Loughrey, the principal and founder of Los Angeles Modern Auctions to discuss the history and future of the auction house. A fellow Sotheby’s Institute of Art alum, Loughrey shed some insight into the art business world of Los Angeles and how a smaller scaled auction house can compete with the likes of Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
Tell us about Los Angeles Modern Auctions. How did this come to be?
LAMA was founded in 1992 at the tail end of a recession. I had run a successful gallery specializing in mid-century modern furniture, but found that when sales slowed down I had too much inventory and not enough cash reserves to keep the gallery open. I had approached several auction houses about liquidating some of our inventory, but at the time there was no interest in this type of material at the bigger auction houses. So I organized an auction for the fall of 1992 (October 10, 1992), which included 150 lots of 20th century fine and decorative art. The sale really struck a nerve in the marketplace and was immediately popular. From that moment on I decided to focus on auction sales. I took some time off and studied in London at Sotheby’s; after a year there I had a vision for an auction house that would specialize in Modernism, where it was furniture or art or decorative objects. I felt that there should not be a distinction between different mediums, as long as an object was created by an artist or designer with the intent of rejecting Classicism. All of these objects of various mediums fit together under a large umbrella of Modernism.
Peter Loughrey, founder and principal auctioneer, Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)
Within the landscape of the major auction house, where does LAMA find it’s niche?
LAMA out performs the major auction house in the objects that are priced between $5,000- $100,000. For the works we have offered over $100,000, we have also met the prices achieved at the bigger auction houses. We like to think of ourselves as the “smallest major auction house.”
Where do you hope to take LAMA in the future?
LAMA has built a base and structure that can handle more volume and I think that is our final frontier. We have already proved we can attract great material and we can achieve top prices. It is our goal to keep developing this niche market by offering more contemporary fine art and design in an efficient and pervasive manner.
Auction Day, February 23, 2014, Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)
With the rise of digital sales in both the primary and secondary market, how does LAMA react and adapt to these challenges?
Our first adaptation with regard to digital sales was to abandon our showroom in 2008. Location has become irrelevant in the auction world because of the power of the Internet. Additionally, we intend to be at the forefront of the next generation of online auction platforms.
What has been your most memorable sale?
Over the past few years we have consistently found and represented objects in higher price points, however, in February 2014 we achieved a company record for the highest price achieved for a single work of Ruth Asawa’s 1955 hanging sculpture, which soared to $1.43 million. This is yet another step in our progression as a company, providing to the art world that LAMA can handle works in every price range.
Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.437), 1956. Sold for $1.43 million in the February 23, 2014 Modern Art & Design Auction at LAMA, effectively tying the world auction record for an work by the artist.
1. Photography Courtesy of Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)/Noe Montes
2. Photography Courtesy of Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)/Noe Montes
3. Photography Courtesy of Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)/Noe Montes
4. Photography Courtesy of Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)/Mario de Lopez