The Collection of James and Paula Ladwig

Jan 9, 2019 · 4 min read

At Auction 17 January 2019, 12 pm central

James and Paula Ladwig

Next week Wright has the pleasure of offering the diverse and intriguing collection of Grammy Award winning designer James Ladwig and his wife Paula, also a designer, at auction. Their collection reflects a remarkable life together doing what they loved — traveling, collecting, racing vintage cars and being immersed in the world of music.

From top left: Tennessee Williams, New York by Irving Penn (Lot 155), Mae West in a Chair at Home, Santa Monica by Diane Arbus (Lot 157), Untitled (Paul Revere) by Jimmy Lee Sudduth (Lot 162); three works from The Dark Side of the Moon 0303 Box set by Storm Thorgerson (Lot 180)

“The Father of Special Packaging”

Jim Ladwig was a pioneer of album design and co-founder of the influential and prominent Album Graphics, Inc. (AGI). After studying at the Chicago Academy of Art and serving in the army, he joined Mercury Records in 1955, eventually serving as art director during his tenure. He designed album covers for the likes of Quincy Jones, Cannonball Adderley and Sarah Vaughn. In 1968, the founder of AGI, Don Kosterka, invited Ladwig to join his fledgling company, which would eventually become one of the biggest publishers of album covers in the world, printing over 200 million jackets a year at their peak.

Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers poster (detail) after Andy Warhol (Lot 199)

A bad album cover is like a baggy suit…the special jacket enhances the group’s position in the business; it adds to their image and maintains the aura. –James Ladwig

While at AGI, Ladwig and his team changed the business with innovative approaches to design, materials and the manufacturing process. Ladwig was nominated for the Grammy in album packaging six times, winning in 1975 for Honey by The Ohio Players. That year, six of the nine albums nominated in the category were published by AGI. Ladwig would go on to create the Digipak, a wildly successful alternative to jewel cases for CDs.

The Collection of James and Paula Ladwig show their professional and personal passion for not just music, but how imagery can impact and elevate the music to a total experience — memorable, iconic and felt.

Edith Piaf, Miami Beach by Mickey Pallas (Lot 188), Untitled (Mick Jagger, She’s the Boss cover) by Erica Lennard (Lot 174)
Jim and Paula Ladwig in their Porsche 356B Roadster at the Colorado Grand (1995)

A Lifelong Passion for Racing

When Jim Ladwig was a young boy, he turned a lawn mower and a wooden box into a racer; at 13-years-old, he took two batteries to be charged and used them to turn over his grandfather’s 1927 Stearns-Knight. Jim and his friends knocked the car off of its blocks in the garage and cruised around Oak Park, IL until the police caught up with them. While in high school, Jim worked at a filling station and tune-up garage next to a used car dealership. In 1958, while a G.I. in France, he got his first taste of racing after seeing the famed endurance race, 24 Hours of Le Mans.

His passion for racing continued into adulthood; his first company car at AGI was a GTB4 Ferrari. When he flew to AGI’s pressing plant in Indiana, he would have a Shelby Mustang rental waiting for him. In 1994, he was convinced by friends to compete in his first rally, the Copperstate 1000 Road Rally, from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon in a 1960 Porsche 356B Roadster.

Jim and his wife Paula shared a love of vintage cars and racing. Paula also developed a passion for cars when she was a child, as her father and uncle ran a successful Packard dealership in Stamford, Connecticut. Growing up, her favorite words were “Avanti,” “Plymouth Fury,” and “Barracuda.”

As with their other collections, Jim and Paula never had a “car barn” full of untouchable, pristine relics; they both believed in using something if you had it and truly living with what you love, whether that be an iconic photograph, a playful piece of folk art or a rare vintage car.

Collection of five American vintage toy cars (Lot 184), Monaco Grand Prix poster by Robert Falcucci (Lot 171)

The Collection of James and Paula Ladwig is being offered within Wright’s Art + Design sale on January 17th 2019. The complete sale listing is available online. All lots from the auction are on view January 10th-17th, Monday-Friday 10 am-5 pm at our Chicago gallery located at 1440 West Hubbard Street.


Stories of art and design from an industry leading auction…