A well-known New York artist and furniture dealer was struck and killed by a car near his home in New Jersey.
Robert Loughlin was struck as he crossed a North Bergen thoroughfare on foot Tuesday night, said Gary Carlson, his partner of 31 years.
North Bergen Police Lt. Frank Mena said the vehicle stopped at the scene. Criminal charges against the driver, whose name was not released, remained a possibility, Mena said.
Loughlin was famous among designers as a "picker" or someone who visits flea markets and thrift stores looking for vintage furniture to re-sell. His buyers have included art world stars such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Loughlin moved to New York in the early 1980s after reading about furniture dealer Alan Moss in New York magazine, Carlson said. Once he arrived, Loughlin became a fixture in the East Village, where he sold mid-century furniture from a truck and later a gallery.
Manhattan gallerist Paul Johnson, a longtime friend, said Loughlin was "adored by the most famous designers in the city."
"He was the ultimate," at picking out vintage gems, Johnson said. "He had the best taste."
In 1994 Loughlin made the kind of find collectors dream about— a Salvador Dali painting, sitting in a Manhattan thrift shop with a $40 price tag. The painting later went up for sale at Sotheby's.
Loughlin was a prolific painter himself, with roots in the gritty 1980s street art scene. His signature image was "The Brute," the face of a stern-looking, square-jawed man. Carlson said he had been the inspiration for the image.
Loughlin's paintings had gotten increased attention of late. Johnson had collected 500 of them and hosted a show in his home last year.
"He was getting opportunities now. People love his paintings," Johnson said. "But he never wanted a gallery; he never wanted the commercial side of it. He just wanted to paint."
Loughlin was born on May 9, 1949 on a naval base in Alameda, Calif., according Loughlin's biography on his website. He left school after the sixth grade to care for his siblings. In the 1960s, he lived in a geodesic dome and participated in the Berkeley riots before moving to San Francisco.
In 1980, he moved to Miami Beach and to New York shortly thereafter. He opened his shop, called the Executive Gallery, in the East Village. He sold many chairs to Andy Warhol for The Factory and 1950s glassware to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
"Mapplethorpe loved him," Carlson recalled. "He'd grab him and take him into his darkroom all the time and leave me standing out there."
But Loughlin's own painting was interrupted by bouts of heavy drinking, Carlson said. He couldn't create art when he was drinking, but the intense withdrawal wore him out.
"He had that monkey," Carlson said.
The couple lived together in a vintage trailer in North Bergen. The night of his death, Loughlin had been drinking and crossed Tonnelle Avenue to feed some kittens across the way, Carlson said. He was struck and dragged.
The night before, they had visited Soho, where Loughlin posed for photos next to work by his favorite artist, Man Ray, in a dealer's home. They also visited Alan Moss, who Loughlin had always emulated and who Carlson called "the Mount Everest of design."
Moss said he wanted one of Loughlin's paintings. So Loughlin found a white glazed vase from Moss' collection and brought it home to sketch "the brute" onto it in felt-tip pen.
Loughlin will be cremated and the vase will become his urn, Carlson said.