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May 18, 2010

Specializing in modern art, design and furniture with an emphasis on works by important 20th-century artists, designers, and architects, Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) was established in 1992 by Peter Loughrey, a devotee of modernism and a contributor to Case Study Houses (Taschen) and Julius Shulman Modernism Rediscovered (Taschen). Holding a select few auctions per year, LAMA will present at noon on May 23 a modern art and design auction with standouts ranging from a rare Frank Lloyd Wright rug to early Nakashima pieces to several items from the collection of architect A. Quincy Jones and his wife, Elaine K. Sewell Jones. 

In the catalogue, Loughrey addresses an investment strategy that many modernists are already well aware of: “You are unlikely to wake up tomorrow to discover half of your painting is gone because of predatory lending in the housing market; or three of your dining chairs have disappeared due to a bad credit default swap,” notes Loughrey, who adds that his own Hans Wegner Papa Bear chair and Eames storage unit “have gone up and down in value while I’ve owned them, but I can’t possibly measure the dividends that each have paid in the quality of my life.” The preview runs every day (10 am to 6 pm or by appointment) through May 22, ahead of the auction at their 17,000-square-foot gallery in Van Nuys. The lots range in value from the surprisingly affordable to the almost entirely out of reach. Online bidding, or just browsing, is encouraged. 
 

The high-backed, steel-and-leather Oxford chair by Arne Jacobsen was originally designed around 1965 for the dining halls at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford, specifically for the long tables where the professors had their meals, and possibly to emphasiz
The high-backed, steel-and-leather Oxford chair by Arne Jacobsen was originally designed around 1965 for the dining halls at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford, specifically for the long tables where the professors had their meals, and possibly to emphasize the authoritative hierarchy of the professors. Manufactured by Fritz Hansen and bearing their original labels, the group of eight chairs is estimated at $5,000 to $7,000.
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Six hands and six feet make up Pedro Friedeberg’s occasional table, designed circa 1975, which adds a complement, in multiples, to the now-ubiquitous early 1960s gilded hand chair. “I admire everything that is useless, frivolous and whimsical,” Friedeberg
Six hands and six feet make up Pedro Friedeberg’s occasional table, designed circa 1975, which adds a complement, in multiples, to the now-ubiquitous early 1960s gilded hand chair. “I admire everything that is useless, frivolous and whimsical,” Friedeberg once said. “It’s the best Friedeberg piece I’ve seen,” says Loughrey. Estimate: $9,000 to $12,000.
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Romboide, 1977, a bronze by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro, whose 1963–64 Sphere No. 4 is in the Guggenheim’s collection. Pomodoro’s piece, with the signature date and edition inscribed on the base, evokes the work of American artist Louise Nevelson, w
Romboide, 1977, a bronze by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro, whose 1963–64 Sphere No. 4 is in the Guggenheim’s collection. Pomodoro’s piece, with the signature date and edition inscribed on the base, evokes the work of American artist Louise Nevelson, whose work is also represented at the auction. Estimate: $15,000 to $20,000.
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A circa-1900 Carlo Bugatti side chair, in Italian burl walnut and missing its original parchment back and seat. Made several years before Bugatti settled in Paris, the chair straddles the transition from Art Nouveau to early modernism, yet is nearly incap
A circa-1900 Carlo Bugatti side chair, in Italian burl walnut and missing its original parchment back and seat. Made several years before Bugatti settled in Paris, the chair straddles the transition from Art Nouveau to early modernism, yet is nearly incapable of categorization in either period due to its historic influences and unique ornamental lines. A similar example is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. Estimate: $3,000 to $5,000.
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Francois-Xavier Lalanne, who turned the art and auction world on its ear with his late-1960s surreal bronze-and-wool sheep and who worked in concert with his wife, Claude, for decades, executed Singes Attentifs SI & SII in 1999. The monkeys, two of only e
Francois-Xavier Lalanne, who turned the art and auction world on its ear with his late-1960s surreal bronze-and-wool sheep and who worked in concert with his wife, Claude, for decades, executed Singes Attentifs SI & SII in 1999. The monkeys, two of only eight made in bronze with a perfect green patina, bear a signature, edition and foundry mark. Loughrey notes that they are “probably the best pieces in the sale.” Estimate: $100,000 to $125,000.
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Two lots of circa 1950s–’60s Julius Shulman photographs of A. Quincy Jones buildings are on offer; one contains eight vintage silver gelatin prints of St. Matthews Church, Sidney Brody Residence, Sascha Brastoff Factory and Showroom and Klein Norton & Co.
Two lots of circa 1950s–’60s Julius Shulman photographs of A. Quincy Jones buildings are on offer; one contains eight vintage silver gelatin prints of St. Matthews Church, Sidney Brody Residence, Sascha Brastoff Factory and Showroom and Klein Norton & Co. building (measuring 8.5-by-11.5 inches); the other, six vintage silver gelatin prints of the Griffith Park Girls Camp (shown), Palm Springs Tennis Club, Steel House, St. Matthews Church and King Cole Market (measuring 10.5-by-13.5 inches). Provenance: Elaine K. Sewell Jones. Estimate: $2,000 to $3,000.
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 Charles and Ray Eames designed the Hang-It-All in 1953; this one, made by Tigrett Enterprises, was a gift from Ray Eames to Elaine K. Sewell Jones and comes from the Joneses’ collection. “Elaine is known as one of the most gifted and creative thinkers in
Charles and Ray Eames designed the Hang-It-All in 1953; this one, made by Tigrett Enterprises, was a gift from Ray Eames to Elaine K. Sewell Jones and comes from the Joneses’ collection. “Elaine is known as one of the most gifted and creative thinkers in the history of modernism,” says Loughrey. “She was a driving force behind all things professional in the modern world early on, and she helped promote modern before it was popular and was absolutely one of the reasons it succeeded.” Estimate: $2,000 to $3,000.
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Verner Panton’s tufted, orange, tonguelike Easy Chair G was designed in 1973 and made by Fritz Hansen. It is one of 10 models (A thru L) designed for the System 1-2-3 seating and table series, and is featured in Verner Panton: The Collected Works, publish
Verner Panton’s tufted, orange, tonguelike Easy Chair G was designed in 1973 and made by Fritz Hansen. It is one of 10 models (A thru L) designed for the System 1-2-3 seating and table series, and is featured in Verner Panton: The Collected Works, published by the Vitra Design Museum. The auction house considers it rare but not overly desirable in the modern market, and therefore valuable to the right collector. Estimate: $2,000 to $3,000.
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Glass artists Michael and Frances Higgins, who met at the Chicago Institute of Design, founded the Higgins Studio in 1948, which originally operated out of their Chicago apartment, their kiln located behind their sofa. The pair is known for renewing the a
Glass artists Michael and Frances Higgins, who met at the Chicago Institute of Design, founded the Higgins Studio in 1948, which originally operated out of their Chicago apartment, their kiln located behind their sofa. The pair is known for renewing the art of glass fusing, a kind of labor-intensive glass layering effect achieved with molten glass cooling in a mold. At first glance, this 32-inch-tall 1965 Higgins mobile reads as an earring from the ’80s; a closer look reveals a difficult-to-make sculpture in a glass, designed well before its time. Estimate: $2,000 to $3,000.
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One of a pair of devilish Chieftain chairs by Finn Juhl, apparently named after King Frederik IX sat in the display model at the 1949 Cabinetmaker’s Guild in Copenhagen. Designed that year and produced after 1955, the chairs, among Juhl’s best-known desig
One of a pair of devilish Chieftain chairs by Finn Juhl, apparently named after King Frederik IX sat in the display model at the 1949 Cabinetmaker’s Guild in Copenhagen. Designed that year and produced after 1955, the chairs, among Juhl’s best-known designs, retain their original Baker labels, indicating their origins at the U.S. furniture maker. Estimate: $10,000 to $15,000.
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One of 15 lots of George Nakashima pieces, this Studio-made early and rare walnut dinette table, crafted before 1954, predates the Conoid designs. Loughrey sought Mira Nakashima’s opinion on the table, and she helped determine that it is likely the protot
One of 15 lots of George Nakashima pieces, this Studio-made early and rare walnut dinette table, crafted before 1954, predates the Conoid designs. Loughrey sought Mira Nakashima’s opinion on the table, and she helped determine that it is likely the prototype for one put into production for Knoll in the 1940s. Estimate: $5,000 to $7,000.
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The self-taught king of studio craft furniture, Sam Maloof made this version of his well-known rocking chair between 1986 and 1989. In a 1985 interview Maloof said, “I want my furniture to be touched, to be sat upon, to be eaten upon, whatever.” The chair
The self-taught king of studio craft furniture, Sam Maloof made this version of his well-known rocking chair between 1986 and 1989. In a 1985 interview Maloof said, “I want my furniture to be touched, to be sat upon, to be eaten upon, whatever.” The chair, in walnut and white oak with ebony, its seamless joinery and delicate dowels indicative of Maloof’s strict attention to detail (he was known for measuring his customers’ inseams before crafting a perfectly fitting chair), will be sold with the original receipt and a copy of Sam Maloof, Woodworker. Estimate: $35,000 to $45,000.
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On a visit to Mexico in 1947 artist Ruth Asawa, who began drawing while interned in two states in 1942–43, learned to crochet wire from a technique used to make egg baskets. Calling her sculptures “three-dimensional drawings,” Asawa recently received reco
On a visit to Mexico in 1947 artist Ruth Asawa, who began drawing while interned in two states in 1942–43, learned to crochet wire from a technique used to make egg baskets. Calling her sculptures “three-dimensional drawings,” Asawa recently received recognition for them at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in the 2007 exhibition “The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air.” The 69-inch-tall wire sculpture was made in the late 1950s, and after this catalogue photo was taken, Asawa’s daughter smoothed and reshaped it to its original state, so it is considered to be in pristine condition. Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000.
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Furniture maker Philip Lloyd Powell—who opened a shop in New Hope, Pennsylvania, around the same time George Nakashima began work there—custom-made this 107.5-inch-tall bar cabinet in 1967 of walnut, slate, velvet, glass and found objects. It was discover
Furniture maker Philip Lloyd Powell—who opened a shop in New Hope, Pennsylvania, around the same time George Nakashima began work there—custom-made this 107.5-inch-tall bar cabinet in 1967 of walnut, slate, velvet, glass and found objects. It was discovered on the East Coast, where it was disassembled into 20 pieces, shipped and reassembled for the auction. Estimate: $70,000 to $90,000.
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Frank Lloyd Wright custom-made this rug between 1945 and 1950 after a 1926 design for the Phoenix residence (built in 1950) of son David Wright and his wife, Gladys. The rug, which was woven by V’Soske of Puerto Rico, measures 19 feet in diameter and was
Frank Lloyd Wright custom-made this rug between 1945 and 1950 after a 1926 design for the Phoenix residence (built in 1950) of son David Wright and his wife, Gladys. The rug, which was woven by V’Soske of Puerto Rico, measures 19 feet in diameter and was artfully shaped to a specific area of the home’s living room. Very few original Frank Lloyd Wright rugs were made, making it an extremely rare item. Estimate: $40,000 to $60,000.
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A teapot designed in 1938 by Paul Schreckengost fits the lines of its decade impeccably, and typically brings tens of thousands when it comes up at auction (Loughrey notes that one in worse shape recently sold for nearly $50,000). This one, signed “Paul S
A teapot designed in 1938 by Paul Schreckengost fits the lines of its decade impeccably, and typically brings tens of thousands when it comes up at auction (Loughrey notes that one in worse shape recently sold for nearly $50,000). This one, signed “Paul Schreckengost Gem Clay Forming Co,” has never been used and is in mint condition. Estimate: $9,000 to $12,000.
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Attributed to designer Louis Dierra and manufactured by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, this chair was designed in 1939 for the Glass Center Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair, and later sold at J.W. Robinson Co. before being featured in Arts & Arc
Attributed to designer Louis Dierra and manufactured by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, this chair was designed in 1939 for the Glass Center Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair, and later sold at J.W. Robinson Co. before being featured in Arts & Architecture magazine in October 1947. It is made of bent plate glass, and as such has a dimpled surface that would have been designed to be ground and polished to smooth transparency; this example was left un-ground. Estimate: $5,000 to $7,000.
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The high-backed, steel-and-leather Oxford chair by Arne Jacobsen was originally designed around 1965 for the dining halls at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford, specifically for the long tables where the professors had their meals, and possibly to emphasiz
The high-backed, steel-and-leather Oxford chair by Arne Jacobsen was originally designed around 1965 for the dining halls at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford, specifically for the long tables where the professors had their meals, and possibly to emphasize the authoritative hierarchy of the professors. Manufactured by Fritz Hansen and bearing their original labels, the group of eight chairs is estimated at $5,000 to $7,000.

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