Los Angeles auction house L.A. Modern Auctions (LAMA) announced this week that it will be selling an untitled 1964 canvas, depicting a plate and a butter knife on a solid surface, by Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins. The $300,000-500,000 pre-sale estimate is the largest ever given at LAMA — it could very well spell an all-time auction record for the house at the sale on May 19. It also marks something of a sea-change as the small California house transitions from a design focus to being more art-centric.
Peter Loughrey, LAMA’s president, told ARTINFO that art has always been his passion, and the company is consciously moving toward selling more art underneath the umbrella of 20th-century Modernism. The time is right, he said, as collectors become more comfortable with the secondary art market outside of Manhattan. Somewhat contrary to the recent reports of the art market solidifying at the top and sagging in the middle, Loughrey believes the lower end of the market (less than $500,000 is contemporary art terms) is heating up, which he largely attributes to the average collector’s increasing comfort level at auction, thanks to the internet.
“Even though eBay has very little to do specifically with the fine art market, it does have a lot to do with the average consumer feeling like they could walk into Sotheby’s or LAMA and feel comfortable bidding on something. Twenty years ago, that wasn’t the case,” he said.
— Shane Ferro
(Vija Celmins, “Untitled,” 1964, courtesy LAMA)