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Art fairs are a little like online dating sites. All of the contenders are culled down into an elite group and people unromantically sift through rows of options. Though the fair concept has it’s roots in the salons of old Europe, the modern iterations around the globe are less-than-sexy big box shops with enough fashion and advertising gloss to put the average shopper at ease.
Art Los Angeles Contemporary is a different kind of fair, however. You could call it a boutique fair, as it is smaller and more intimate in scope. The fifth installment of ALAC fair opened Thursday night at the historic Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. The fair has gone through some changes this year under the guidance of director Tim Fleming and has broadened its scope internationally by limiting the number of local gallerists to one third of the exhibitors. A number of entertainment industry figures were in attendance, including Jerry Bruckheimer, Moby, Orlando Bloom, Jesse Williams, Justine Bateman, Lisa Edelstein, The Hunger Games‘ Alexander Ludwig, producer David Hoberman and CAA’s Thao Nyugen.
A private gathering was held Wednesday night at the home of collectors Sam and Shandit Schwartz to welcome participants in the fair. Collectors, gallerists and artists in attendance included Michael Ostin, formerly of Warner Bros and Dreamworks Records, Ronnie Sassoon, gallerists Miles Thurlow and Paul Moss, co-owners of Workplace Gallery, Benjamin Trigano of M+B Gallery, Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi and artists Sam Falls, Drew Heitzler and Justin Beal among others. A great example of the expanded international reach of the fair, Thurlow and Moss of Workplace hail from a remote northern part of England and a cultural enclave near Newcastle called Gateshead. Thurlow describes the place as “a ‘post-industrial’ working class city. Not a wealthy place. Very few collectors. But there are three art schools there. Richard Hamilton taught there. Gavin Brown studied there. Matthew Hicks, Mark Leckey – a whole list of Turner prize winning artists.” As for what makes this fair special (aside from the weather), Thurlow added:
“The gallery scene here feels like it has substance and it is not just a market-led kind of interest. It feels like there is an investment in the culture here. It feels like there is some deep collecting going on.”
THR also spoke with Michael Ostin about what makes ALAC unique and valuable for collectors in Los Angeles. According to Ostin “I think it is more intimate, it is easier to navigate. It’s not overwhelming. It is very, very intelligently curated. And who doesn’t want to be in LA in January! You could think of worse places to be. I love the location at the Barker Hangar. LA has been an interesting challenge for art fairs, and I think they have finally found all the right elements: the curatorial perspective – the galleries who are participating – the way they have set it up at Barker. At a lot of these fairs it is just sensory overload.” Asked if there were any particular artists he was watching, Ostin said “Jonathon Viner has an artist named Dan Rees that I love and who will be presented at the fair.” but more importantly that “part of the beauty of it is the process of discovery.”
Former Los Angeles dealer Javier Peres took the largest booth at the fair this year, traveling from his new location in Berlin. “I started my gallery in 2003 in Chinatown, so I used to be in LA and I have always had a pretty substantial Hollywood clientele. I have always worked with young Hollywood and established Hollywood, and it’s an ongoing dialogue that I have with them. And I work with an artist named Alex Isreal who is based in Los Angeles. His work often engages Hollywood and the industry in general, so for me it is second nature.” And on a business level, Peres said succinctly “The reality is L.A. has shitloads of money. There is always so much cash flow in the city. So business-wise, it is a really important city for us. It always has been. Oddly enough, when I was in L.A. I did less business than I do now. Now that I am based in Berlin, I do much more business here.” Peres is prominently featuring new works by Mark Flood which feature Victoria’s Secret ads. The works have attracted attention as “A lot of these girls have in one way or another been related to some of the boys of Hollywood. So there has been a lot of ‘I dated her’ kind of thing going on…”
Art Los Angeles Contemporary will be on view at the Barker Hangar through Sunday, February 2nd. The fair is open Saturday, Feb. 1 from 11am to 7pm; and Sunday, February 2 from 11am to 6pm. One day passes are $20 and a three day pass can be purchased for $30. For more information, visit www.artlosangelesfair.com.
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