LA Art through a European Prism

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Last month, I traveled through about a dozen European cities in just three weeks; it was all art, all the time, but don't feel sorry for me, it was not exactly heavy lifting. The invitation to visit Holland came from two Dutch organizations: the Mondriaan Foundation and the Service Centre for International Cultural Activities (SICA). My hosts gave me carte blanche: staying in Amsterdam I could travel to other cities and see as many museums and meet as many curators and directors as my heart desired. That's exactly what I did, and in the coming weeks, I'll do a special program about what I saw there. My pilgrimage to the land of Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Van Gogh revealed a surprising vitality of cultural scene there, with contemporary art holding its own against the glory of the past.

While traveling, I try to see both classical and contemporary art, often in the same day. That puts things in perspective: for example, who among today's big-name artists will stand a chance of being remembered a century later? Cy Twombly? Anselm Kiefer? Louise Bourgeois? My guess would be yes, however, the superheated market for anything bearing the name of Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami or Jeff Koons will undoubtedly cool down, if not completely cease to exist.

But what about the Los Angeles art scene? How does it measure up to what I was able to see at the Venice Biennale and then in Basel, at the most important of international art fairs? Though Los Angeles art was present at both venues, I couldn't help thinking that many of our established artists are still waiting to be discovered on the international art circuit, and I have no doubt that it will happen in the not-too-distant future. After all, the prices for contemporary art are over inflated, and the rapidly expanding market is in constant need of replenishment with fresh, new product. Right now, Chinese art is all the rage, but I think it's only a fad.

In Europe, I talked to a lot of people about the diversity and quality of contemporary art being made in LA and how reasonably it's priced, compared to what collectors were eager to pay in Basel. That's exactly what I keep saying to students in my seminars on "The Fine Art of Art Collecting." Don't follow the trend, don't collect with your ears. Open your eyes to something new, take the less traveled road.

On my first day back in LA, I rushed to KCRW's annual Angels party at the Hammer Museum, where I saw once more Eden's Edge, the excellent exhibition of fifteen contemporary LA artists. A few days later, LA Louver Gallery unveiled the ambitious show, Rogue Wave '07, presenting strong works by already familiar and some new artists. Both exhibitions are a good place for smart collectors to hone their skills and do a little damage to their pocketbook.

A good friend of mine, Manfred Müller, who divides his time between Los Angeles and his native Düsseldorf, is showing at RoseGallery his new works on paper, which I find especially appealing in their rare combination of intimacy and suppressed aggression. And even after twenty-five years following the career of Richard Ross, he has managed to pull off another surprise for me with a provocative exhibition of new, large-scale color photographs, The Architecture of Authority, at Acme Gallery. He traveled around the world capturing the essence and unnerving, harsh beauty of interrogation rooms, isolation cells, and the like, that you and I hopefully will never experience firsthand.

Rogue Wave '07: 12 Artists from Los Angeles On view at LA Louver through August 18

Richard Ross: Architecture of Authority On view at ACME Los Angeles through July 28

Manfred Müller: on view at RoseGallery through August 21

Banner image: Osman Khan, We interrupt your regularly scheduled program, 2003; TV, software, 2 projectors, 2 computers dimensions variable