Fair  February 16, 2019  Jordan Riefe

Inaugural Frieze LA Shines Despite Downpours

Jordan Riefe

Hannah Greeley Installation at Frieze LA

Some of the best art schools in the country are in Los Angeles, the fruit of a long tradition of blue-chip practitioners like Catherine Opie, Robert Irwin and Millard Sheets teaching classes to the next generation. Among the largest exhibition spaces for contemporary art in the world, L.A. boasts a burgeoning downtown arts community, spreading to all corners of the city. The only thing missing is the art market. That’s about to change, if Victoria Siddall has anything to say about it. She’s the Director of Frieze Fairs—including Frieze London, Frieze New York, Frieze Masters, and now the inaugural Frieze Los Angeles, Feb. 15 through 17, on the backlot at Paramount Studios.

Jordan Riefe

Sarah Cain at Frieze LA

“L.A. has all the things that make it a fantastic art capital,” Siddall tells Art & Object. “The only thing it doesn't have, and we're bringing it with Frieze, is this spot on the calendar that ties all of these things together and brings the eyes of the world to L.A. and its incredible art scene for the week.”

A deluge of biblical proportions threatened to swamp the fair on preview morning, but the show blithely carried on, with works going for substantial sums before the day was done. Hauser & Wirth sold Mike Kelley’s Unisex Love Nest installation for $1,800,000. Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets (B-A-Y), fetched an asking price of $1.6 million. L.A. Louver sold three of five works by Gajin Fujita at $40,000, $45,000 and $250,000, and a 1967 work on paper by Alexander Calder went for $200,000.

According to Siddall, 49 of 70 exhibitors have not shown in an L.A. art fair in the past five years, and 30 percent of the galleries have a local presence, including Hauser & Wirth, Blum & Poe, Sprueth Magers, and L.A. Louver, part of a plan to bring the city into the fair.

Jordan Riefe

Paul McCarthy at Frieze LA

Adjacent to a specially-designed tent by go-to art architect, Kulapat Yantrasast, who has the interior of Marciano Foundation as well as Christie’s showroom in Beverly Hills on his resume, the backlot’s faux New York City street has become an outdoor museum. Curator Ali Subotnick has commissioned site-specific installations by L.A.-based artists like Karon Davis, Sarah Cain, Barbara Kruger, Cayetano Ferrer, Kori Newkirk and others, including Paul McCarthy, whose inflatable ketchup bottle towers over skyscrapers in the faux financial district.

"I brought him to the site, and he had so many ideas," recalls Subotnick. "Paul turns things upside down and they were just projects that we couldn’t make happen. He's used ketchup in a lot of his performance pieces and movies and even in his early videos. There's a room inside the skyscraper where we’ll show Bossy Burger, and I don’t think people have seen that in a while."

Two new movies by McCarthy, CSSC and Dadda, will be premiering at Hollywood's Montalban Theater Feb 15, just one of the many off-site experiences open to the public including Werner Herzog in discussion with Tom Sachs. Frank Gehry will talk about art in the age of artificial intelligence with collector Maja Hoffmann and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, while a series of panels at the Paramount Theater curated by Hamza Walker will pair artists like Ron Athey with Rafa Esparza, harpist Zeena Parkins with composer Susan Alcorn, and artist Cauleen Smith will sit down with Sondra Perry. Bring your Magic 8 Ball as conceptual artist Lisa Anne Auerbach will act as psychic art advisor, cueing collectors on what to buy.

Frieze LA
Jordan Riefe
Frieze LA
Jordan Riefe
Frieze LA
Jordan Riefe
Frieze LA
Jordan Riefe

As a market, Los Angeles was unproven, with most local collectors traditionally buying from New York or overseas galleries. But the festival’s executive director, Bettina Korek, a native Angeleno, believes Frieze had a foolproof way of luring buyers starting with a star-studded welcoming committee featuring Salma Hayek, Serena Williams and Tobey Maguire, courtesy of Endeavor Agency, which purchased a majority stake in Frieze in 2016. Cited at the fair were numerous celebrities, including Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda and Jodie Foster.

Jordan Riefe

Blue-chip buyers from all over the world were likely drawn by the Frieze name, thanks to a following cultivated by sister Frieze fairs in London, where it originated in 2003, New York, which began in 2012, and Frieze Masters, also in New York, inaugurated the same year.

"Partially because Frieze did start in London, we're seeing a strong interest from European buyers, particularly people coming from London," says Koreck. “But we have a number of galleries from Asia. [LACMA President] Michael Govan just mentioned that he was in Shanghai and people there were talking about Frieze L.A."

While the artworld has traditionally looked to New York and Western Europe for influences and hottest trends, the 2011 landmark show, Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, put the art world on notice, highlighting the city’s singular mid-century contributions.

"Traditionally, from the fifties onward, really the West Coast has been a space for radical experimentation, some of the first light and space art to body and performance art. There’s almost too many different movements to name," says artist Doug Aitken, whose storefront installation in a Hollywood strip mall, Don't Forget to Breath was revealed to coincide with new works he’s showing at 303 Gallery's booth at the fair. "Oftentimes, when I look to the East Coast, I see a continuous movement toward refinement that you find the opposite here; artists like Chris Burden, and Baldessari and Mike Kelly working in a way that's loose and wild.”

Jordan Riefe

Cindy Sherman at Frieze LA

Born in Redondo Beach in 1968 and working out of his Venice studio, Aitken is famous for a mixed-media practice that includes electric earth, a multi-screen experimental short film about the last man on Earth, and Mirage, a life-sized mirrored house in Southern California's high desert, copies of which he has placed in Detroit and, earlier this year, Staad, in the Swiss Alps.

Kori Newkirk, whose Signal, made from T.V. antennas, occupies the New York street on the backlot, is hopeful. “I think it’s wonderful to have so much attention toward artists in Los Angeles in a way that we might not have had yet,” he says with a smile, but then changes his tone. “Ultimately, this is a business. A fair is about business. So, that will be really interesting to see how that works here.”

About the Author

Jordan Riefe

Jordan Riefe has been covering the film business since the late 90s for outlets like Reuters, THR.com, and the Wrap. He wrote a movie that was produced in China in 2007. Riefe currently serves as West Coast theatre critic for The Hollywood Reporter, while also covering art and culture for The Guardian, Cultured Magazine, LA Weekly and KCET Artbound.

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