At Villa Giulia I met something that was already in me.

Massimo Campigli, on his first encounter with Etruscan art

Birth of the Modern

Peter Loughrey was a talented pioneer motivated by a restless enthusiasm, crucially driven by the willingness to communicate, to share and to discover. An intuitive feel for the burgeoning interest in post-war design led Peter to establish the nascent LA Modern Auctions in 1992 — soon to evolve into the very first dedicated auction platform of its type. Although the initial turnover those first years was modest, LAMA’s impact and resonance was to spearhead a new era of collecting. With these auctions Peter, together with his wife and co-director Shannon, swiftly developed an interactive platform for what was evolving as an increasingly globalised tide of enthusiasts, dealers, curators and collectors. His auctions became a raison d’être, justification to what many of us were at the time tentatively yet willingly exploring. Here, in these auctions, post-war design was spot-lit centre stage, and celebrated as a movement in its own right.

If these initial auctions consolidated and gave focus to the market, then they also gave us an identity — achieved very simply through the semantics of the company that celebrated ‘modern’. A simple and obvious choice, but so influential and less cumbersome than the prevailing options of "twentieth century" or "post-war." Auctions at that time were traditionally associated with antiques, and there was a general disinterest within the trade to consider anything less than seventy years old as having any cultural or collectible value. Although this market had been described as being "modern" for some years already in the US, the word had not yet been internationalised beyond American shores to represent a collecting movement.

LAMA was established at exactly the right time. The zeitgeist was perfect, and helped guide many of us. Around this time I returned from the US and was shortly set to curate my first design auctions for Christie’s in London. Peter’s catalogues during this explorative period were invaluable. Perhaps difficult to understand now, in our era of immediate communication, but the fully illustrated printed LAMA catalogues were the equivalent of a fanzine that would be passed around, photocopied and then memorised. Nowhere else at the time was contained the detailed information that could allow us, many thousands of miles away in London, to distinguish between an early or a late example of, say, an Eames LCW, or to be exposed to the furniture of Schindler or Neutra. And crucially, there were prices. The prices meant that the market was real. And every so often there would be something in Peter’s sales — a trophy lying in wait for the knowledgeable — that would yield a revolutionary price, setting new records and issuing concentric ripples that gave us the confidence to recognise that our passion for this material was no daydream.

Peter had the fortune to discover his calling, and the certainty to pursue it, his delight for discovery underpinned by curatorial seriousness. Together with Shannon, LAMA established a keystone in the foundations of the modern market, flag-bearers of international design and with a global message. Today LAMA co-anchors a dedicated and influential network of US auction sites, all specialised graduates of that early era of modern discovery. A shared mission is always the most pleasurable, so thank you Peter, for helping guide the way.

Simon Andrews
Curator and advisor
Andrews Art Advisory

Massimo Campigli

Massimo Campigli was born in Berlin as Max Ihlenfeld in 1895 and would become a significant artist and journalist of the 20th century, bringing ancient influences into the burgeoning discourse of Modern art. As a collaborator with legendary designer Gio Ponti, Campigli adorned the entrance hall of the Palazzo Liviano with a massive 300 square foot fresco.

Campigli spent the majority of his childhood in Florence, and moved to Milan with his family in 1909. There, he mingled with the avant-garde, working with the magazine Letteratura as well as contributing to Futurist magazine Lacerba. His intellectual pursuits were interrupted by World War I, when he was held in Hungary as a prisoner of war from 1916 to 1918.

After the war ended, Campigli moved to Paris to work as a foreign correspondent for an Italian newspaper and it was here that he first began to paint. In addition to spending time among the artist milieu of Café de Dôme, Campigli would find great inspiration from the ancient Egyptian art at the Louvre as well as the works of Picasso and Fernand Léger. His first solo exhibition was hosted in Rome in 1923, and in 1928 he would be included in the Venice Biennale for the first time.

Campigli’s encounter with Etruscan art in Rome would critically impact his body of work, which thus pivoted towards a style fully embracing muted tones and references to archaic history. These works were received favorably, and he went on to show internationally with solo exhibitions in Paris, Milan, and New York. During the 1930s he embarked upon several high-profile public art commissions, including a giant fresco for the Ponti-designed Liviano in Padua, Italy.

Auction Results Massimo Campigli