Los Angeles has lost a pillar of the art community. Peter Loughrey, respected art dealer and the founder of the venerable Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) has passed away at the all too young age of 52, after a year long struggle with cancer.
Loughrey was a formidable and visionary force in the auction world, establishing the very first successful boutique auction house in the country dedicated exclusively to modern design. In addition to his role as LAMA’s founder, director, and principal auctioneer, Loughrey was a skilled writer and curator who worked tirelessly to share the stories of the art objects and artists he so admired. Loughrey became a house-hold name, appearing regularly as an appraiser on PBS’ show “Antiques Roadshow” as well as other national television shows. He will be remembered as a loving son, brother, friend, and husband of 27 years to his beloved wife Shannon.
Peter Alexander Loughery was born on February 20, 1968 and grew up in scenic Salisbury, Maryland. The son of Irish parents, his physician father Theo and homemaker mother Claire raised their two sons and daughter in a rural and idyllic setting. Peter grew up close to his extended family in Ireland, and is part of a tight-knit group who adore their American cousin. His childhood stories paint a Tom Sawyer-like childhood spent fishing the local rivers, racing cars on empty wooded roads with his buddies, and running with abandon along the tops of moving trains jumping from car to car. It was this dare-devil streak, combined with his encyclopedic knowledge and a passion for marketing, that ultimately made LAMA the first successful auction house in the world dedicated exclusively to selling 20th Century modern art and design.
At the age of 20 in 1988, Peter originally headed to Hollywood to try his hand as a stuntman in the film industry. His career in the movies was short lived, but his adventurous spirit never waned. In the early days, Peter was living happily out of a van parked by the ocean in Marina Del Rey. He and his older brother, Joe ran a small business hunting for unique treasures at local estate sales to re-sell at the flea market. Later they opened a design gallery together on Beverly Boulevard in 1989. It was still a time when mid-century design could be scored at garage sales and rescued from the curbside trash. “I found that out here, a lot of people didn’t know what antiques were and what a good antique was,” Loughrey told CNBC in 2017, “and I started trusting my eye and buying things and flipping them.”
When Peter Loughrey first moved to California he was so enamored by the modernist homes he’d pass while driving through Brentwood and Bel Air that he’d often stop, ring the doorbell and ask the owner for a tour. “A little old lady would answer and I’d say ‘Is this a Neutra house?’” recalls Peter, referring to pioneering Austrian-American architect Richard Neutra. “She’d say ‘Yes! How did you know?’ Then she’d let me in, make me a sandwich and show me around.”
After the untimely death of his brother Joe in 1993, Peter briefly took a job selling medical equipment in Philadelphia. It was during this time that Peter was first diagnosed with cancer. The silver lining to this chapter is that he reconnected with his childhood friend, Shannon Carragher. Shannon, who grew up in the same small coastal town as Peter, happened to work in the accounting office at the NIH where Peter was being treated. “I swore if I got out of this, if I beat this lymphoma, I’m going to be the best art dealer I can be,” he later said. Peter was now fully recovered, thanks in part to Shannon’s regular visits, asked Shannon’s hand in marriage. Having completed the auction course at Sotheby’s in London, Peter and Shannon headed back to Los Angeles together in 1995, determined to establish their own design auction business. With Shannon now working by his side, the couple would eventually grow Los Angeles Modern Auctions into a world-renowned institution.
From the very early days, LAMA led the field in the rediscovery and celebration of mid-century design on the West Coast. The early auction audiences were a who’s who of design enthusiasts and budding collectors that including famous actors, designers, architects, and other LA luminaries. Highlights from LAMA’s ascent include the commission to liquidate the Silver Lake architectural offices of Richard Neutra as well as the corporate art collection of the Atlantic Ritchfield Corporation (ARCO) in 1999. That same year, LAMA set the world record for a design sold at auction by Charles and Ray Eames. Notably, LAMA carved a niche into the international market through milestone auctions dedicated to individual designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Paul Laszlo, and R.M. Schindler.
After conquering the design market, Peter turned his considerable talent and passion to the sale of contemporary art and would soon establish LAMA as an International force in the contemporary art field. During his nearly 30 year tenure, LAMA has set dozens of auction records and sold more than $100 million in total sales. Highlights including the work of such luminaries as Ruth Asawa, Sam Maloof, DeWain Valentine and Andy Warhol.
Peter co-curated many Los Angeles gallery shows, including Gio Ponti: Furnished Settings & Figuration (2004) and Dutch Design (2005), both at ACME Gallery, in addition to co-curating and publishing the exhibition catalogue for Gaetano Pesce: Pieces from a Larger Puzzle at Los Angeles’s Italian Cultural Institute (2010). In September 2017, Loughrey curated a show as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a Getty initiative, on Emerson Woelffer. He has also written numerous articles and was a contributor in the books Case Study Houses (TASCHEN 2003), Julius Schulman Modernism Rediscovered (TASCHEN 2007), and Collecting Design (TASCHEN 2010). LAMA has also conducted auctions for prominent California estates, and institutions such as LACMA, the Palm Springs Art Museum, Playboy Enterprises as well as the artist James Pristini and collector Max Palevsky. Peter also served as a member of the board of the Decorative Arts Council at The Los Angeles County Museum, LACMA.
All those who knew Pete were blessed to have known a man whose vast knowledge of art and design was surpassed only by his wit, kindness and generosity. He leaves behind his loving wife Shannon, his parents Theo and Claire, and sister Helen. In addition, Peter had a network of loyal friends who thought the world of him, and will miss him greatly. With the continued guidance of Shannon Loughrey, and along with her dedicated and expert staff, LAMA will operate as before – while continuing to celebrate Peter’s formidable legacy.
“I wanted to make a statement in clay” – M. Arntz
Southern California is rich with historically important artists and makers. In the mid 20th Century, trail-blazing craftspeople and designers of all kinds were working up-and-down the California coast, creating work of distinctive character and enduring beauty. These pioneers, many who are still with us today, are considered the backbone of the celebrated California Design movement.
Michael Arntz is a Santa Barbara based ceramic artist, and former educator, whose long career has produced an influential body of both monumental sculpture and smaller scale works that continue to be collected and shown nationally. His work has been sold at fine auction and is included in many noted national collections. Eudorah Moore, the celebrated curator of the famed “California Design” Exhibitions (1962-1976) included Arntz’s work along with the most famous West Coast designers and makers of his generation.
Various examples and detail, of Michael Arntz’s ceramic sculpture
In 1967, in a review of his show of large ceramic sculptures the Los Angeles Times wrote of twenty-eight-year-old Michael Arntz:
“Arntz’s statements are as eloquent as a commanding totem pole, as fertile of symbol as fruit about to burst with ripeness. They might have grown out of the earth—overnight, as a mushroom appears. Discovering them, one is tempted to associate them with magic powers, or make use of them in invocations to the pagan deity for rich harvest.” In a full-page profile of Arntz in 1970, the Christian Science Monitor described his “monolithic forms, convoluting shapes, slab-constructions dripping with appendages create a feeling of strength, of growing things.” Michael Arntz told the Monitor at the time, “I try to bring together the organic and the inorganic.”
In 2018, The Landing Gallery in Los Angeles held the show “Ken Nack/Michael Arntz: Santa Barbara 1960’s – 1980’s.” Gerard O’Brien, Director of The Landing notes that “some of his (Arntz’s) sculptures feel geological—at times featuring a split reminiscent of earthquake fissures, allowing the viewer to see their insides, and are sometimes painted with stripes reminiscent of the earth’s striations—while others feel biological. Still others —especially those in plexiglass or metal—include sharp edges, perfect globes, or snaking tubes. All reflect a freedom of form and zest for experimentation that feels exceptionally Californian.”
Ken Nack/Michael Arntz show at The Landing Gallery, Los Angeles in 2018 – photo courtesy of The Landing
Michael Arntz was born in Los Angeles in 1939. Michael’s parents were divorced soon after Michael was born and he was left, for most of his early years, with his maternal grandmother who lived in the San Fernando Valley just outside of LA. His memories from that time are of walking to school through rich farmland where he would pick carrots, turnips and oranges to eat on the way. He also had fond memories of getting money from his grandmother to buy eclairs from the Helman’s Bakery wagon. That, according to his wife Penny, began his life-long passion for sweets.
Michael’s father lived in Santa Monica and his mother in Oklahoma City. In the summers, Michael would spend his time as a ‘latch-key kid’ at his father’s home near the Santa Monica beach. He cooked himself fried-rice and fish that he and his buddies caught off the Ocean Park Pier. Michael notes that the eroded cliffs across from the beach along the Pacific Coastal Highway (PCH) were an important influence on Michael’s work. Indeed, his later “Mountain Pots” series all depict the eroded, gouged earth and cliffs he saw so often in his youth.
Michael Arntz, “Mountain Pot” series
Returning to California after graduating from Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City, Michael headed to Santa Monica City College. His father had by then moved to Zuma Beach, where he and Michael built a small home together by hand.
Michael earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from California State, Long Beach in 1962 and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts from the same institution.
A football scholarship started his college career at Santa Barbara City College and then followed with him to Long Beach State University – a total of eight years of college football. He recalls that during his first year he played the freshmen at UCLA, Stanford and USC were ineligible so they all came to SBCC to play. That incredible team won the National Junior College Championship in the Rose Bowl and Michael still wears his championship hat proudly to this day.
To keep his scholarship, as his grades needed a boost, he signed up for a ceramics class which ultimately led him to change from an architecture major to an art major. At Long Beach State he was awarded the job of technical assistant in the ceramic studio – with a key, and unlimited hours. The kilns were big, he was strong and talented and his first monumental clay sculptures ensued.
In the seminal 1976 survey of Californian makers “Craftsman Lifestyle: The Gentle Revolution” by Olivia H. Emery, Michael notes his natural gravitation toward sculptural work. “While I was in school, we went to visit the Heinos (famed Ojai ceramicists Otto and Vivika) to see how a limited production studio worked. I was very impressed when Otto ‘kicked’ (on the kick potter’s wheel) a large pot to show how strong and functionally satisfactory his product was, but I realized at the same time that I was not interested in how well my pot worked as a functional object…I wanted to make a statement in clay”
David Cressy at the famed manufacturer Architectural Pottery (“AP”) company hired Arntz while he was still a student. For his first job out of school, he continued as the lead designer-craftsman at Architectural Pottery from 1963 to 1965. Wife Penny remembers “Michael would come home from working there and have to soak his hands in hot water to make them function again.” She continues that while he did not sign those Cressy pieces – “so many that we see coming up for sale today at design auctions now are his – we are sure.”
In 1965, Arntz was hired as a Professor of Studio Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Alfred Moir, the Department Chair at UCSB came to Cal State Long Beach to ask Michael to come to Santa Barbara to visit. According the Penny, “Michael saw the campus by the ocean, the lagoon right out from the Art Department and just grabbed the job. He loved his students, the studio there, the lagoon and the ocean for 38 years.”
Student Joanne awards Michael Arntz with “Best Professor” award, 1969
Years of summer camping trips canoeing, hiking and fishing (making his own split bamboo rods and tying flies) furthered his passion for the outdoors and all of nature. The forms and patterns of nature inspired his work and his preference for an outdoor placement for his sculpture. “Placement in the outside environment is also what interests me. Nature is inspiration, and I’m equally interested in the way my piece relates to the environment and the environment to my piece.”
Michel built two homes for his family by hand and cabin designs for three fiberglass boats. One was a 26′ Coquille he used for commercial lobster fishing – swimming into faculty meetings at UCSB when he was department chair – having anchored in Goleta Bay. He held his clothes up out of the water as he swam ashore.
Penny Arntz notes that Michael and a few of his colleagues at UCSB (biology and geology) worked together to establish ‘the Ranch’, given by Duke Sedgwick to UCSB, as a nature reserve as Duke intended. Others at the university had tried to break the trust and subdivide a big portion of the property. Michael went to the local press and revealed the plot and was censured by the Academic Senate, of which he was a member. He was terrified at the time that he has lost his job, but happily, there were no negative repercussions.
Arntz retired as Professor Emeritus from UCSB in 2003 with a party in the ceramic studio courtyard. The University’s Chancellor and Vice Chancellor attended with many of the faculty and Michael’s former students. He received numerous awards, fellowships and commissions during his almost forty-year tenure at the University.
Over his long career, there were numerous solo exhibitions including at the famed Esther Bear Gallery in Santa Barbara, the Fairtree Gallery in New York and The Long Beach Museum of Art.
His work has appeared in group exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum, the Long Beach Museum of Art, and the Pasadena Museum of Art. He is represented in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
He has received numerous awards, fellowships and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, The American Craft Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The recent Ventura County Museum’s current show “California Cool: Mid-Century on the Central Coast” included a fine example of Arntz’s work alongside other master designer craftsmen of the central coast. The show was curated by curator/design specialists Steve Aldana, Jordan Downs and Eric Huff.
Michael’s great love is his family – his wife Penny, his daughters Rebecca and Michele, son Chris and his beloved grandchildren. While his life has slowed, his work has left a lasting legacy, and has cemented his reputation as one of the most important living makers on the West Coast.
Michael’s retrospective at the Landing Gallery Sept 22, 2019. He and wife Penny is pictured with a former graduate student John Doloszycki and John’s wife.
I’m a big fan of Willy Porter and was thrilled to get to watch him perform at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica (a wonderful, intimate venue, by the way). From the first notes, Willy Porter, a contemporary American rock musician and singer-songwriter from Mequon, Wisconsin, had his audience mesmerized. Porter has a unique finger-picking, guitar thumping/slapping style, and uses tunings of all manners, sometimes even placing two capos on his fret board at once. The magical tone of his guitar and his soulful lyrics mixed in with heartwarming humor make his show something pretty damn special. At one point, on strumming his guitar, Porter pointed out that the other stringed instruments hanging on the walls of McCabe’s were resonating. It’s called Synchronized Resonance or Sympathetic Vibrations. I love that as I think “sympathetic vibrations” describes Porter’s music and his being quite succinctly.
As Porter performs you feel like you’re hanging with a good friend. A warm, sincere, decent fellow that you cherish as a rare find. His music wraps you in a loving blanket that invites you to relax and join in.
After talking about the importance of good stewardship of mother earth, he invited the audience to sing along to “Akasha Winds”, a song penned by L.J. Booth. The song is included on Mnemonic, Porter’s latest CD. Not that Porter usually does cover songs, he’s a prolific songwriter, with 12 CD’s released. He makes songwriting appear easy, so easy in fact, that he co-write a song on the spot with the audience. “Call out some ideas”, he encouraged. We ended up with a song that included the words: hitchhiking, Ramen noodles, cheese curds, kittens, hypocrisy and folk alliance. Tricky words to slip into a song, but Porter did it artfully while making us all laugh.
Porter was described to me as: not only a consummate musician, but one of the most genuine, truly wonderful people on the planet, who performs molecule-rearranging shows. Now, doesn’t that sound like someone you’d like to hangout with? Well, you can because Willy will be leading a tour to Ireland in August 2020 (bring your instruments) – you can find more info on that at www.willyporter.com You can also find Porter’s most requested guitar tunings at his site. How cool is that!
I got to ask Willy some questions and below are his answers – enjoy!
1) Your guitar sounds so full and rich. What guitar are you using and how many different tunings are you dealing with?
I’m currently playing a Jason Kostal 6-String. It is a remarkable instrument for its overall tonal balance, intonation and playability. I tune down a whole step, D to D, then open-tune from there. So a very familiar open-tuning fro many guitarists, “DADGAD” for me is CGCFGC. From there I’ll use a lot of different variations on Bb, F, and combine open-tunings with partial capos, etc. I use medium gauge strings (.013-.56), so the really low tunings are still fairly stable to work with. I’ll go through about 6 or 7 different tunings in the course of a night, but it all depends on where the night goes musically.
2) How old were you when you first picked up a guitar?
I started playing when I was 12.
3) What’s your craziest on stage experience?
Sound-checking in Texas while Paul Simon was on-stage watching and asking me questions about what I was doing was probably the craziest moment for me.
4) What song of yours is your favorite?
The one I just finished, whatever that might be. I do like to play “Bears Ears &The Great Law” a lot these days though.
5) Which musician would you go to see perform if you could (dead or alive)?
6) Has your songwriting style changed over the years, and how many CD’s do you have available to date?
I think I’m more patient with the process of writing than I was when I started. Some music takes a long time to write, other songs happen very, very quickly. Through time and effort I’ve learned to let that process be what it is in the moment.
7) If you were interviewing you, what question would you ask?
I’d ask “When was the moment that music really spoke to you for the first time?” And it was hearing my dad play the piano.
8) What’s next for you?
I’m looking forward to working and writing with drummer Dave Schoepke and bassist Eric Madunic. We’ve had fun as a trio and I think we have some nice musical terrain ahead of us. I’m excited to see where the music might take us.
Photo Credits: Cover photo by Leeann Flynn
Insert B&W photo by Mark Waite