Lights, Camera, Action: LA Is Ready for Its Close-up

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at090106a.jpg I do remember the opening of the first Los Angeles gallery dedicated exclusively to showing photography, an event that was met with considerable skepticism. Then, in the early 80's, not only the public, but a lot of critics considered photography to be the stepchild of the art scene, dominated by painting and sculpture and the critical darlings, conceptual and installation art. These days photography is all the rage. Major museums organize sprawling photography exhibitions; a good example is the mid-career retrospective of well-known Los Angeles artist Catherine Opie at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

at090106b.jpg Today, in Los Angeles alone, one counts close to a dozen galleries specializing in photography, and for those of us who want to get up close and personal with the medium, this week is charm. On Thursday, January 8, the prestigious international photography fair – Photo LA – returns to the city for its 18th year, with a gala opening to benefit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The fair will take place in the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, where about 70 dealers from around the world will show in their booths everything from small 19th century daguerreotypes to super scale color photographs which, not long ago, were technically impossible to produce. Photo LA runs through Sunday, January 11, and each day has a promising program of public seminars on collecting, as well as lectures by major artists, including Bruce Davidson, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Catherine Opie.

at090106c.jpg For those of you who, like me, believe that one cannot be too rich, too thin, or have too many art fairs, you are in for a treat: later this month, two more international art fairs will fight for your attention, opening virtually simultaneously. Art LA, specializing in contemporary art, runs from January 23-25 at the Santa Monica Airport. An even bigger fair, the Los Angeles Art Show, with about 175 dealers from around the world, will descend upon the LA Convention Center, where it runs from January 22-25. Held downtown, it offers a wide range of works, from Old Masters to modern and contemporary art, as well as a large array of furniture and decorative arts.

at090106d.jpg It will be interesting to see to what extent the prices reflect the new economic reality. It's definitely the time for discerning buyers to shop around. My advice, as usual, is to see as much as possible, and when you find something especially appealing, ask questions and find as much information as you can about the artist. Don't be shy about negotiating a better price; because of the economy, dealers these days are more flexible than ever before. And be suspicious of dealers promising you a good return on your investment; be sure that you are buying only what you like, choosing with your eyes, and not with your ears, so to speak.

at090106e.jpg I am planning to spend a lot of time at these art fairs, so if you spot me there, don't be shy, say hello and ask whatever questions you might have -- I'd be happy to help. And if you're up for a challenge, you might want to join what I like to call my 'art gypsy caravan.' The new group convenes on January 24 and proceeds with three additional Saturday meetings, during which we visit artist studios, homes of private collectors, and special museum and gallery exhibitions. If you'd like more information, send me an email. So it's all art, all the time, and the more the merrier. Happy New Year.


Photo LA
January 9-11
Barker Hangar, Santa Monica Airport

Art LA
January 23-25
Barker Hangar, Santa Monica Airport

Los Angeles Art Show
January 21-25
Los Angeles Convention Center

Banner image: Alex Prager, Kimberly (detail), 2008; C-Print; Courtesy Robert Berman Gallery