Exploring LA’s Art Scene Through the Inaugural ‘Frieze Los Angeles’ Mega Fair

When we heard that London-based mega art fair Frieze was putting on its first LA edition, we knew we had to be there. The fair took place from February 14-17 at Paramount Picture Studios where 70 invited international galleries set up their booths under a large white tent, in typical Frieze fashion. Highlights included seeing Mike Kelley’s Unisex Love Nest (1999) presented by Hauser & Wirth; Jeppe Hein’s mirror balloons at König Galerie; and Jeffrey Deitch’s presentation of Judy Chicago’s work from the 1960s and 1970s.

But what made the Frieze experience uniquely LA was that Frieze Projects, a curated section of site-specific artists’ projects, took place at Paramount Studios’ New York Backlot. There we hung out on the steps of brownstones, ventured into others to see some art performance or another, and wandered around the surreal set while viewing projects by Paul McCarthy and Hannah Greely.

Even more interesting than catching up on all the big international galleries was getting a snapshot of LA’s up-and-coming artists and gallery scene through some of the smaller, auxiliary fairs alongside Frieze.

There was the inaugural Felix Art Fair, founded by art collector/former television executive Dean Valentine, occupying the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Galleries were set up in rooms on the hotel’s 11th floor, penthouse, lobby, and in surrounding poolside cabanas, where we learned of LA galleries like Chateau Shatto, Grice Bench, and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.

Then there was the New York-based SPRING/BREAK Art Show premiering its Los Angeles fair, featuring over 40 artists, curators, and artist-run spaces — predominantly from LA. It took place in former produce warehouses more recently reconceived as The Row DTLA (that’s Downtown L.A.) to host pop-up events, and fashion and tech office spaces. The fair showcased more experimental work and emerging galleries.

Taking a spin on the typical art fair, stARTup Art Fair was an artist-driven event aimed at connecting collectors directly with artists. Artists, rather than galleries, took over the rooms of yet another hotel, this time The Kinney Venice Beach. The vibe here was relaxed, low-key, and price points felt accessilble for young collectors, with works starting from $200 rather than $20,000.

In an afternoon, we managed a whirlwind tour of a handful of galleries, who all put on attention-worthy shows: Jeffrey Deitch (fantastically, over-the-top group sculpture show, People, on until April 6th); L.A. Louver (new work by David Hockney on until March 23rd); LAXART (to see the Barbara Kruger exterior installation on until June 1st); and Regen Projects (which at the time presented a solo exhibition by Glen Ligon and an off-site installation Don’t Forget to Breathe by Doug Aitken).

Evidently, LA’s arts scene is totally thriving and definitely enjoying a moment right now. It’s an under 3-hour flight from Vancouver and you can often find cheap flights for when you’re next craving a dose of art. Tempted?

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