Art | The Reconnoisseur

The gallery where the artists are all unknowns

A gallery dedicated to the forgotten painters of yesterday

The gallery where the artists are all unknowns

September 01 2010
Mark Ellwood

My father is an artist, and I grew up around galleries and gallerists – scouring backstreets for undiscovered talent, or idling away weekends in old museums. So I loved the Lost Art Salon the moment it opened five years ago on a grubby corner of San Francisco’s SoMa district. It’s a little-known gallery with a clever twist: rather than sifting through endless graduate-school portfolios for new work, the owners search for overlooked gems from the past by purchasing from the estates of artists, from dealers, and at fine art auctions.

The prices on the pieces they’ve bought, then cleaned and hung here, are modest – mostly under $1,000 – but that isn’t the point. The work at this salon is chic and different; I love the fact that there’s no risk that anyone will identify the artist behind any of the pieces I’ve bought, or claim to have seen them at a show.

Among the pieces that I’ve bought here, I’m especially fond of some graphic abstract oils from the 1960s that look like blueprints for fabric designs, dauby and playfully colourful. There’s a small selection of period-appropriate vases and lamps, too, which are far more charming than many of the high-style reproductions I’ve seen at museum stores.