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It’s becoming a winter tradition, the opening-night gala of the L.A. Art Show (which runs through Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center). Each year attracts another A-list host such as Jon Hamm to do the honors at the event, which for the past several years has benefited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I’m a big believer and a big fan of what they do,” Hamm on Wednesday told The Hollywood Reporter about the hospital founded in the 1950s by entertainer Danny Thomas, whose son Tony is a friend of Hamm’s. “A lot of organizations that purport to raise money for kids, raise money for a lot of the adults who run the organization. And St. Jude’s puts a lot more money where their mouth is,” said the star.
Past gala hosts include Anne Hathaway and Emma Roberts, who attended this year’s event along with Jay Duplass, Aldis Hodge and Brandon Boyd of the band Incubus. Matthew Modine occupied a booth with his photos from the set of Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic Full Metal Jacket.
“[Kubrick] said to me once, ‘You would never go up to Beethoven and say, “Hey, how many notes in that song?” or Picasso, “How many strokes in that painting?” So why is it that people make such a noise about my doing multiple takes?'” Modine recalled the legendary filmmaker asking. “When you’re filming, the number of takes you do is the cheapest part. It’s all the preparation around getting to that.”
Modine has a houseful of artwork, mostly his own, but otherwise doesn’t consider himself a collector. Neither does Hamm, though he does have a number of prized prints by a childhood friend’s mother, who was a master printmaker. He also has an eye for works by Tom Huck, another printmaker from Missouri.
“I wouldn’t call myself a big art collector. I’m relatively well versed in art history and in some sense of contemporary art,” said Hamm. “One of my favorite things to do when I’m out of town is to check out galleries. Atlanta has some phenomenal contemporary art galleries, and obviously New York. I do like going. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to spend a day, unless you start buying things. Then it can get very expensive very quickly.”
This year’s edition of the L.A. Art Show features 100 galleries showing roughly 20,000 artworks from about 18 countries. Producer Kim Martindale anticipates 67,000 visitors over the next four days. “The number of guests are leveling off and we’ve made a concerted effort to do that until we kind of expanded to the space we have. So this year we’ll look and see what those numbers are,” said Martindale, who founded the show in 1995 with only 12 galleries,and has nurtured it through the decades.
This year’s show can be summed up in a single word: diversity. DIVERSEartLA occupies a 60,000-square-foot space with work from all over the globe. “L.A. is very diverse. It’s not just about Western art, it’s about Asian arts or art that’s worth $1 million or $1,000,” said Martindale, who anticipates $35 million in sales over the next four days.
“Sales have been improving the last few years. We expect that trend to continue,” said Martindale of the fair. “I think the economy is getting better and better. [And] art is something that more and more people are looking at purchasing. For a long time, major collectors went to New York or London or other cities to buy their art. Now they’re proud of buying it here.”
Installations range from blunt political works like “Left” or “Right,” a series of red punching bags with the faces of world leaders for viewers to unload on, to the more sensual I’m Not a Trophy, a global initiative featuring the likenesses of women such as Cara Delevingne to increase awareness of sexual stereotyping as well as the hunting of endangered species.
A performance by Pandemonia, a multimedia pop artist based on a cartoon-like character, became a selfie fave, as did a dance performance, YARE: One More Dance by Cristobal Valecillos, a multidisciplinary representation of Los Diablos de Yare, which is a celebration of dancing devils dating to 18th century Venezuela and has been declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Twenty Los Angeles restaurants offered tasty fare at the gala, including dishes by James Beard Award-nominated chef Jeffrey Nimer of Haute Chefs L.A.
But the longest line — by far — was for Pink’s Hot Dogs.
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