|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist:|
Robert Loughlin, Artist and Design Expert, Dies at 62
By PAUL VITELLO
Published: October 11, 2011
Robert Loughlin, an artist and quirky sage of Modernist design whose work as a “picker” and dealer in 20th-century furnishings influenced high-end interior decoration in the United States even though he chose to live in a trailer park, died on Sept. 27 in North Bergen, N.J. He was 62.
Mr. Loughlin was struck and killed by a car while crossing a four-lane road near the entrance to his home in the Manhattan Mobile Home Park in North Bergen, said Gary Carlson, Mr. Loughlin’s partner. They had lived there, in a vintage Spartan trailer, for the last 20 years.
Collectors and decorators anointed Mr. Loughlin a celebrity soon after he arrived in New York in the 1980s, seeing in him an unusual amalgam of talents that set him apart from most pickers, the forward scouts who prospect and supply dealers with their wares. Equal parts artist, art historian, scavenger and horse-trader, Mr. Loughlin schooled a generation of collectors in the high quality of half-forgotten Modern and mid-century designers — not by writing or lecturing about them, but by scouring flea markets and thrift stores for discarded pieces of their work, and selling them.
The Nelson chairs, Eames tables and Kagan sofas and lamps he peddled from the back of his battered pickup truck helped spark a market in what became known as vintage or “retro” furnishings. Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jean-Michel Basquiat were early customers.
“Andy bought so many chairs from him,” said Vincent Fremont, a Warhol associate and founding director of the Andy Warhol Foundation, “his nickname for Robert was the Chairman.”
The patronage of Warhol and the others helped Mr. Loughlin win over many New York collectors to the simple line, laminated sleekness and functional yet beautiful form in Modern and mid-century modern design.
At a time when antiques were still the rage, Mr. Loughlin “pioneered a way of appreciating objects for their inherent beauty instead of for their pedigree,” said Carlo McCormick, an art critic and senior editor at the pop-culture journal Paper. “He had a remarkable eye for beauty. He saw it in things that most of us would pass by on the street.”
Mr. Loughlin’s most publicized find occurred one morning in December 1994, when he pulled a painting from a pile of stuff at a downtown Salvation Army store. It turned out to be an authentic portrait by Salvador Dalí. He bought it for $40. After it was auctioned at Sotheby’s, he and Mr. Carlson received about $78,000.
“I’ve always felt a kind of connection with Dalí,” Mr. Loughlin told The New York Times several months later. “I’m a Taurus and he’s a Taurus. I used to have a belt buckle by him. I saw him on ‘Johnny Carson’ a long time ago.”
Robert Donald Loughlin was born in Alameda, Calif., on May 9, 1949. His father was an executive for a chain of gas stations. He told friends that he had never liked school and had left after the sixth grade. Drifting to the open city of 1960s San Francisco, he developed an interest in art and design and eventually opened a series of stores there specializing in midcentury modern furniture and appliances.
In 1980 he moved to Miami, where he operated a similar shop. A few years later he left for New York, where he owned a gallery in the East Village for about five years until deciding it was less expensive and confining to operate from his truck, friends said.
Besides his partner, he is survived by his mother, Dorothy; his brothers, David, Jerry and Michael; and his sisters, Drae, Jackie and Joanne.
In the 1980s, Mr. Loughlin began making his logoesque signature paintings — a square-jawed man with a cigarette dangling from his lips — on canvas, buildings and objects, including pieces of furniture he could not sell. “The Brute,” as he called his series, has been shown at galleries in the city.
But by most accounts his most significant work was less tangible. Friends described it as a unique sensibility harnessed to lightning-fast competitive reflexes.
“It was a radar for beautiful stuff,” said Larry Weinberg, a fellow collector and writer. Watching merchandise being unloaded from a truck, “Robert would see it before anyone else did,” Mr. Weinberg said. “It would be just the foot of the chair coming out, not the whole thing, and he would know it was something important.”
Never known for high-flown talk, Mr. Loughlin probably came as close as anyone to capturing the essence of his art when he recounted a gnomic exchange in his first meeting with Warhol.
“I get stuff you like,” he told Warhol.
“Bring me stuff,” Warhol replied.
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