ART WORLD Q & A: Edition 5

ART WORLD Q & A: Edition 5


For this edition of Art World Q&A, Los Angeles Modern Auctions Founder and principal auctioneer, Peter Loughrey, lends his awareness of the market and the passion and enthusiasm required to successfully navigate the art world.

About Los Angeles Modern Auctions

Peter Loughrey is the founder and principal auctioneer of Los Angeles Modern Auctions, the first auction house to specialize in selling 20th century Modern Art & Design. Loughrey is an established curator, trusted consultant, and a well-recognized expert in Modern Design & Fine Art. He is a prominent figure in the Los Angeles Modern Art & Design community through his involvement at LACMA as a member of the Decorative Arts and Design Acquisition Committee and Contemporary Friends, as well as his contributions to Taschen books. Not only is he a repeat appraiser on PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow”, but he has also been featured on Forbes’ “Sold!” on Ovation TV and Fox Business’ “Strange Inheritance.” He was named one of the 50 most powerful dealers in the Art + Auction “Power Issue” for two consecutive years.

To learn more about Los Angeles Modern Auctions please visit:

1. How has the art market changed over the last 20 years?

Information and the way it is communicated is the biggest change in the art market over the past 20 years.

The reason for this is clearly the Internet. Twenty years ago, information on identification, rarity, quality, value and other key aspects of a work of art was more difficult to come by. Today, however, information is almost instantaneous, which has democratized the market considerably and has allowed for Fine Art to become a quasi-asset class.

2. Who are the contemporary artists that will stand the test of time and why?

In my opinion, artists that will stand the test of time will be the artists that have strong collector interest, expert representation, and the acceptance of today’s top curators. Artists with one or two of these will not necessarily hold their value. But artists with all three have the best chance of being the most desirable 20 years from now. I would suggest Mark Grotjahn, Jonas Wood, and Sterling Ruby are three examples of artists that meet this criteria.

3. What role do you think taste plays in the decisions that important collectors make when buying new work?

Taste still plays a major role.  The taste of the artist is paramount, but the collector must also consider their own level of taste.  Curators and critics also use their taste to formulate opinions.  The market will be partially shaped by all of these factors. Increasingly however, collectors are making objective decisions based not on taste, but rather by data and cold analysis. Just as taste doesn’t play a major role in the value of stocks; it is also becoming irrelevant to market forces.

4. What would you buy with $10k, $100k and $1 million?

For $10,000 I would suggest buying ceramics by the Japanese studios like Otani Workshop which are only recently being represented in America by galleries like Blum & Poe.

At the $100,000 level I would suggest exceptional works on paper by pop icons such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and especially Tom Wesselmann from galleries or auction.

For $1,000,000 I would suggest recent works by Rudolf Stingel, Richard Prince, or Christopher Wool at auction.

5. What are the advantages/disadvantages of buying at auction versus buying through a commercial gallery?

There are some artists that have a very wide discrepancy between the price at a gallery and the price at an auction. So it can be very wise to pay attention to the auction process.  However, for some artists, there may not be a regular volume of work showing up at auction. New works can sometimes take five to twenty years to show up on the resale (auction) market and even then there won’t necessarily be a wide variety to choose from. So, sometimes it’s better to have a choice of a selection of work from a gallery.  Established blue-chip artists are easier to find at auction.  For example, a collector can expect to find exceptional works by Pablo Picasso and at a regular interval. But options may be more limited for Vija Celmins, whose work doesn’t show up with any regularity at auction, however, her dealer would be able to supply a variety of works which they control.

6. What criteria do you use in judging art?

For my personal purchases, I tend to trust my eye and think about how a particular work makes me feel at first.  Then I try to imagine whether this work will be something I’ll like to see everyday and whether it will fit with my other collections.

For my business, I try to anticipate what the target market (including demographics of the buyers in the future) will look like.  Then check to see the performance of the artist’s entire body of work and the artist’s history of representation.

7. What criteria do you use in pricing art?

I tend to rely heavily on comparable pricing at auction or at galleries. The latter can be difficult to ascertain, so a lot of legwork is sometimes required.

8. What is long-term market value largely dependent on? How relevant is long-term market value with the fluctuation of auction prices going up or down each season?

Long term pricing depends on whether there will be a strong influx of new interest in the future. Supply and demand cannot be ignored. For example, there is no expectation that a large group of new young buyers will suddenly become interested in Old Masters markets, so there is not likely to be big spikes in value ahead. Conversely, there is likely to be more interest in top young artists in the future, so many will appreciate dramatically.

Some data and analysis can show when a particular artists work is trending higher than its historical levels, but overall long term value still depends on supply and demand.

9. What determines the commercial value of art?

So many factors go into this, someone like Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons are more adept at the commercial application and mass marketing than most artists. Primarily, commercial value relates to how wide of an acceptance the work can achieve. 

10. How are art fairs shaping contemporary art? What is the primary role of art fairs?

Art fairs do allow for a greater freedom and experimentation for contemporary artists. Contemporary art dealers can use these venues to brand their business as well as promote an individual artist.

11. What are your favorite online venues for buying art?

Anywhere that offers curated works that have been vetted by industry leading experts is a good place to buy with confidence. Beware of online venues that don’t let you know what works have sold for in the past. Transparency and expertise is what every buyer should demand.  Artsy and Christie’s online auctions are my favorites.

12. What do you look for in the art you collect?

My personal taste tends toward the abstract and non representational. I also like artists who have consciously rejected historical precedents and who embrace new materials or technologies.

13. What is the best advise you can offer to someone who is ready to start collecting contemporary art?

Find an expert and ask questions. Do your homework. There is no excuse for ignorance in this market.