“One thing about gallery life in Los Angeles is frustrating for many people is that you can't get to all of the galleries in town in one day, really, because they're all over the city. And here you'll have galleries from Glendale, you'll have galleries from downtown, you'll have galleries from the west side, and you'll also have galleries from all over Europe and New York,” said KCRW’s Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, describing one of the practical upsides to Frieze LA’s inaugural fair opening Thursday on the backlot of Paramount Studios.
On the downside, there’s no parking for regular attendees (though VIPs get to park.)
Frieze LA is a global art fair franchise that grew out of an art magazine founded 28 years ago in London. It is aimed at the world’s top collectors and has already sold out its tickets, averaging $50, for timed tours of some invite-only 70 galleries, of which a third are LA galleries (including Kayne Griffin Corcoran, David Kordansky, The Box, Hannah Hoffman, LA Louver) invited to participate by executive director Bettina Korek. Tickets are available for curated programs.
A goal of the fair, part-owned by Endeavor Talent Agency, is synergy with Hollywood’s awards season, to tap into the collecting community in town for galas and parties.
And it’s to offer an art experience that goes beyond the commerce and is rich in ideas -- a talks program produced by Hamza Walker -- as well as design and public installation: Frieze LA features a tent and “sequence of environments” designed by architect Kulapat Yantrasast, and installations curated by Ali Subotnick.
Subotnick talks about the artworks on DnA; one of them, by LA artist Hannah Greely, celebrates something you’d find in Brooklyn but rarely in LA: people hanging their clothes to dry outside!
Frieze LA has drawn into its orbit several other art fairs, including the longstanding ALAC, Art Contemporary Los Angeles, taking place on the same dates at Barker Hangar. ALAC saw some of its galleries jump ship for Frieze, among them Anat Ebgi, Francois Ghebaly and Night Gallery, but has the advantages of parking (it is at Barker Hangar), and loyalty.
Drohojowska-Philp tells DnA that some exhibitors have chosen not to go to Frieze for that very reason, and take pride in ALAC’s role as the "Homegrown Art Fair".
Frieze has had hiccups in the past: its New York fair on Randall’s Island in 2018 was famously, unbearably hot, prompting refunds to paid to the galleries. In a bizarre twist of weather fortunes, rain and cold are promised for Thursday in LA, the day of its VIP opening.
But the buzz is also overheated, prompting the question, how much does Frieze LA matter? Does it represent, as the organizers and some critics claim, LA’s arrival on the global art stage?
“I don't think that Frieze signals that L.A. has arrived as an art scene,” says Drohojowska-Philp, “I think it signals that they believe there are enough collectors here to justify this expense.”