Four Times Fair Makes Magic?

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The end of the year has its own inevitable rhythm; the busy holiday season is punctuated with shopping, partying, and obligations to have a good time. And still, many of us can't wait for the quiet weeks of January. Not this year, that's for sure. For a stretch of ten days starting last week and continuing through the upcoming weekend, Los Angeles became the arena for four virtually concurrent Art Fairs competing for our attention. First out of the gate came Photo LA, with its seventy-three participating galleries from around the world. Judging by the crowds, Photo LA, now in its 16th year, has developed a good reputation and strong following. With the opening night proceeds benefiting the Elton John AIDS Foundation and subsequent three days filled with lectures, seminars, browsing and, of course, a lot of schmoozing, this was definitely -- to borrow from the famous Hollywood movie -- An Affair to Remember.

Next up is the 12th Annual Los Angeles Art Show, which opens Wednesday at the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. This art fair brings over eighty art dealers who will offer a wide variety of decorative as well as fine art of the last five hundred years. I was impressed by last year's presentation, which clearly indicated the organizers' intentions to raise the bar as far as the quality of art and the reputation of dealers selected for participation. Give yourself at least a couple of hours just to walk through the sprawling maze of the exhibition floor. This is a good place for aspiring collectors to get their feet wet, and not only to look but also to literally touch and feel the artworks they're curious about (though it would be smart first to ask permission). The opening night gala for this LA Art Show will benefit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with the proceeds helping to underwrite its upcoming exhibition of Latin American art.

Not to be outdone, another art fair, this one emphasizing contemporary art, opens on Thursday at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium under the banner Art LA.  Proceeds from the opening night reception will benefit the Museum of Contemporary Art. More than forty dealers from the United States and abroad will be showcasing the latest international art trends. Los Angeles, along with New York, Berlin, and London, is recognized as a major international center for creating contemporary art. But we're still missing a big international art fair, on par with those in these other cities. One hopes that this New Los Angeles International Contemporary Art Fair (now in its 3rd incarnation) will continue to grow in the number of participating dealers as well as in stature.

Last but not least is the 22nd installment of the Los Angeles Fine Print Fair, hosted by the Prints and Drawings Council of LACMA and taking place at the former May Company building, which is now a part of the sprawling complex of the County Museum. This one may be the least flashy of all the fairs, but the less intimidating scale of the space and relatively small size of the thousands upon thousands of prints, spanning several centuries, allows for a welcome, intimate experience. I remember seeing and handling many prints and finding unexpected gems attributed to Durer, Rembrandt and Renoir, to name just a few.

Now, with all the above, you have your week (and your work) cut out for you. Get busy. And if you have a chance, grab the January issue of Art News magazine, with its cover story on How to Start Collecting. Let me know about your experiences if you go to some of these fairs.

January 18 - 21
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
1855 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90401

January 25 - 28
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

January 24 - 28
Barker Hangar
3021 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica Air Center

January 26 - 28
LACMA West, 5th Floor
6067 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036