In Los Angeles, Pop and Contemporary Art at Auction

The great contemporary art collections of Los Angeles – carefully amassed by their midcentury modern patrons – are now finding new homes, thanks to Los Angeles Modern Auctions.

“L.A. had a tremendous collector scene that exploded in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so now there’s a lot of good artists’ work from estates – and a lot is staying local,” says Peter Loughrey, LAMA’s director.

Works by Warhol, Litchenstein, and Jasper Johns are especially popular with a younger generation today. And Picasso’s work has been hot for the past seven to eight years. One of his 100 “Aztec” vases will be on the block during LAMA’s May 21 auction – and promises to fetch a hefty sum.

“When you have 100 of them, you can chart and trace the last one sold and expect what the next one will sell for,” he says. “We were expecting $50,000 for the last one and it brought $80,000.”

That’s due to supply and demand. And while aesthetics may play a role for some collectors, contemporary art also plays an increasingly important role in investment portfolios.

“It’s similar to looking at what an ounce of gold goes for – you look it up on the London exchange,” he says. “Some pieces in the secondary market – whether Warhol, Picassos or Litchensteins, and in New York or Dubuque – it doesn’t matter where they are. They’re the same prices.”

People will appear if they know something special is for sale. “We’re in a seller’s market, but it’s a very savvy group that’s buying,” he says. “We’re setting world records for some pieces in every auction.”

And the Pop and contemporary art he’s selling isn’t likely to drop in desirability or value anytime soon – because it’s graphic appeal today is the same that it was 50 years ago.

The only difference is the price that’s rapidly ascending – because no one makes this caliber of work anymore.

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