Super-picker Robert Loughlin once found a Salvador Dali portrait at the Salvation Army on Spring Street in 1994. He bought the painting for $40, and it later sold at Sotheby's auction for $78,000.

I Knew Jim Knew, Jim Walrod

Robert Loughlin 1949–2011

Robert Loughlin was a beloved artist and character in the world of design. Born in Alameda, California in 1949, his interest in design flourished at a young age. By the late 1970s, he had opened two stores in San Francisco, being one of the first "pickers" to specialize and create a resale market for mid-century design. In 1980, he relocated to Miami Beach, Florida where he established a third store and also began painting.

After several years, he moved to New York City and opened the Executive Gallery and became immersed in the downtown art scene. He became known for his boisterous, hard-living as much as his design skills; he sourced art and furniture for clients such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Mapplethorpe. One of his most impressive finds was a Salvador Dali painting at a thrift shop that he bought for $40. During this time, his iconic imagery of "The Brute," a smoking square-jawed male figure, began appearing all over the city — on found objects including doors, tables, antiques, trash, bottles, skateboards, other works of art, and public spaces alike. "The Brute," an idealized male face, often depicted smoking, recalls the classic, masculine faces of James Dean and Marlon Brando, and is modeled after Loughlin's partner of thirty-one years, Gary Carlson. Loughlin explored the far reaches of this singular imagery, which has since become an icon of gay and outsider culture.

His artworks are collected by institutions such as The Carnegie Museum of Art and among personal collections including the artist Donald Baechler. Tragically, Robert Loughlin was struck by a car near his home in New Jersey in 2011.

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