When Frieze announced in 2018 that it would launch a new art fair in Los Angeles the following year, the excitement was tinged with a whiff of skepticism. Could a major international art fair take place in a city as unruly, as changing, as sprawling as Los Angeles? At the time, Artnet News columnist Tim Schneider went so far as to call LA an “art fair graveyard”, predicting that “Frieze Los Angeles would be dead when it arrived”. With two successful editions under their belt and a third set to open this week, Frieze LA have proven their critics wrong. It looks like LA is finally ready for a fair to match the caliber of its art scene. But what effect has Frieze had on the city’s art market?
Several local gallery owners felt that the success of Frieze LA was a reflection – more than a cause – of the city’s rise as an international art capital. “For us, Frieze LA didn’t change the market so much as it confirmed without a doubt what we have always felt and known: Los Angeles is unique in the world as a site of cultural production, with a local artistic scene that wields international influence,” said Marc Payot, president of Hauser & Wirth, which opened its Los Angeles outpost in 2015, in an email.
Long dismissed as a city where art is made but rarely sold, LA is seeing the rise of an increasingly strong collector base. “For years people didn’t take the galleries that were here seriously – they were always going to New York to buy works,” said Kimberly Davis, director of LA Louver, which was founded in nearby Venice. almost 50 years ago. “Now New York galleries are coming to LA. At first it was to take care of their artists, but now it’s for their clients who are there.”
Besides Hauser & Wirth, Sprüth Magers and Deitch Projects, several other New York and European-based galleries have opened branches here over the past decade. And as the art world begins to pick up its pre-pandemic pace, many other galleries have announced plans for Angeleno outposts at lightning speed: Sean Kelley, Lisson Gallery, Pace Gallery, the Hole and a joint venture between Sargent’s Daughters and Shrine. (David Zwirner is also bolstering his West Coast operations.)
While the “Basel Effect” may describe the significant cultural boost the giant Swiss art fair has given cities like Miami and Hong Kong, Frieze LA’s influence on the city is more akin to stoking flames than to light the fire. While at last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach there were only three Miami galleries among the 254 exhibitors, there will be nearly 40 local galleries out of 100 attendees at this year’s Frieze LA.
“For a city like Los Angeles, which has always been seen as peripheral and decentralized, a cohesive international art fair can play an important role in showcasing artistic activity here,” said David Kordansky, whose namesake gallery opened in 2003 and recently announced plans to expand to New York.
One thing Frieze LA has managed to accomplish, say local dealers, is to galvanize the city’s diverse and far-flung art communities. “The city is atomized, everyone has their little patch,” said Charlie James, who founded his eponymous gallery in the city’s Chinatown in 2008. “For years I would be in Zona Maco [in Mexico City]and I would meet a collector from Los Angeles that I had never met before.
“Frieze managed to create a week-long event where the art world comes to a stop in LA. It instantly became the most important week in LA for us,” said François Ghebaly, whose gallery has opened in 2009. “The energy here is scattered and varies across many different types of spaces and events. Channeling all that energy in a week is difficult.
While sales are the driving force behind any fair, several gallery owners have cited the breadth of Frieze LA’s program for its success. “The first Frieze LA wasn’t just your usual commercial art fair; there were ambitious projects and big community events,” said Jeffrey Deitch, who opened his gallery’s Los Angeles outpost in 2017, four years after his difficult stint as Museum director ended. of contemporary art in Los Angeles. “Artists, collectors, museums, galleries, they are all on board. It is embraced by all sides of the artistic community. This is not the case with all art fairs.
One such project at this year’s edition is the BIPOC Exchange, a community space bringing together ten Los Angeles-based organizations working at the intersection of art and social justice, including the Los Angeles Poverty Department. , GYOPO, People’s Pottery Project and Contra Tiempo. Organized by artist Tanya Aguiñiga, the BIPOC Exchange is located in the Beverly Hilton Hotel adjacent to the main fair and will not require tickets to enter.
“I love the idea of having these LA highlights throughout the fair,” said Christine Messineo, the recently appointed director of Frieze’s two US fairs. “It shows the more expansive nature of what our city is doing.”
“Our geography, diasporic communities, the palimpsest of histories and cultures, light, New Age spirituality, (Hollywood) industry and even traffic, they all inform vibrant artistic and community creation in Los Angeles,” said said Commonwealth & Council gallery staff in a collective email. “And it’s great to be able to share a slice of our life with everyone.”