With imperturbable patience, Fornasetti fills [functional objects] with drawn inventions, fictions, allusions, symbols...evocations as well as slyness and sweetness; he fills them with illusions.
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.
Curator and advisor
Andrews Art Advisory
Piero Fornasetti was born in Milan in 1913 and he grew up with an insatiable desire to draw anything and everything. He won a seat at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, but was promptly expelled; his creative spirit did not match the harsh discipline of the academy. He forayed into the realm of fashion and began designing silk scarves with his soon-to-be signature motifs of roman ruins, suns, and flowers. In his furniture designs, Fornasetti worked in an incredible range of materials to create a dizzying array of decorative arts imbued with both wit and theatricality. Struck with the beauty of the famed Italian opera star Lina Cavalieri, Fornasetti created an entire series called “Themes and Variations” with more than 300 versions of Cavalieri’s face. With tongue in cheek irony, Fornasetti depicted Cavalieri in a variety of guises ranging from the humorous to the surreal. In 1959, Fornasetti won the Neiman Marcus award for his significant contributions to the field of fashion, joining the ranks of Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel. Fornasetti died in 1988, leaving behind thousands of imaginative designs and forever changing the field of Italian decorative arts.
Auction Results Piero Fornasetti