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If this week’s simultaneous fairs — the L.A. Art Book Fair at Geffen Contemporaryand Art Los Angeles Contemporary at the Barker Hangar – weren’t enough to keep the city’s art world cab-hopping, this year marks the rise of a third contender: Paramount Ranch, where Cary Grant and John Wayne shot films. More community street festival than art fair proper, Paramount Ranch will bring thirty-odd galleries and artist-run spaces to the eponymous movie ranch in the mountains of Santa Monica, where visitors can browse works from some of Europe’s most compelling emerging artists like John Armleder, Mike Kuchar, Nikolas Gambaroff and K8 Hardy, take in a performance or two, hold their ground in a shoot-out (albeit via video game), or just grab a drink at the Old Saloon, courtesy of Culver City’s Mandrake.
Once known as Rancho Los Virgenes, the 2,700-acre spread was snapped up by Paramount Studios in 1927. It was immediately put to work as a full-time Anytown, appearing on screen as colonial Massachusetts (The Maid of Salem, 1937), ancient China (The Adventures of Marco Polo, 1938), a Javanese isle (Ebb Tide, 1937) and a Welsh mining town (How Green Was My Valley?, 1941). Most recently (from 1992-1997), Paramount Ranch masqueraded as late-1860s Colorado for the popular television drama, Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman. Now owned and operated by the National Parks Service, it is open to the general public. (It’s even available for weddings.)
“We literally stumbled onto Paramount Ranch, while hiking around Malibu,” recalls Pentti Monkonnen, an artist who, along with partner Liz Craft, runs The Paradise Garage, an alternative space in Venice, whose current show, “Liquor Store,” boasts over 30 artists — from young guns Eli Hansen, Yngve Holen, and Marie Karlberg to old hands Mark Grotjahn and Richard Prince. Monkonnen and Craft have long since been itching to parlay their gallery experience into an art festival. They saw their opportunity when they met the gallerist duo of Robbie Fitzpatrick and Alex Freedman. Previously based in Berlin, the two had relocated from Berlin to Los Angeles last year to open the gallery Freedman Fitzpatrick in a strip mall off Hollywood Boulevard. “There’s this global conversation happening right now between the new generation of galleries cropping up in New York, Berlin, Zurich,” Fitzpatrick explains. “It was always part of our mission to find some way to connect them, to collaborate.”
It was Monkonnen’s suggestion that the team check out the ranch as a potential festival setting. “My first thought when the four of us visited Paramount was that the mix of ersatz Old West and film set architecture might shake up the white-box art fair formula, maybe inspire everyone to get a little weird, a little experimental,” Freedman, an L.A. native, confesses. Adds Fitzpatrick: “I really loved the accent on the Wild West. L.A.’s art world is really having a moment now — not just with these young galleries, but also big guns like Matthew Marks, Hauser and Wirth and Spreuth Magers all moving in. It’s great to have the fair really play up the pioneering spirit, the sense of a last frontier.”
Around thirty galleries and artist-run spaces will participate. The roster runs the gamut from L.A. staples like Ooga Booga, Francois Ghebaly and Overduin & Co. and New Yorkers Essex Street and Audio Visual Arts to a rollcall of hip internationals: Balice Hertling (Paris), Supportico Lopez (Berlin), Hacienda (Zurich), Neue Alte Brücke (Frankfurt), Federico Vavassori (Milan), and Misako+Rosen (Tokyo), to name a few. Night Gallery will take over the ranch’s Bank, while Laura Owen’s 356 Mission will settle in the Depot “There’s going to be a video game tournament,” promises dealer Bridget Donaghue. In the Old Saloon, Dusseldorf-based Off Vendome will bring a round of Zak Kitnick darts, while visitors can wet their whistles at the bar, which will be tended by the Mandrake. Meanwhile, out on the porch, in a cheeky nod to the bandana-ed bandits of yore, New York’s Artists Space will station male models wearing their special-edition artists’ scarves. Just the scarves. “I’m crossing my fingers the Hollister models confirm,” director Stefan Kalmár confided last weekend.
Completing the two-day festival will be a host of performances by artists including Frances Stark+Bobby Jesus, Brendan Fowler, Dawn Kasper, Ei Arakawa, and Evan Holloway. In addition to screening a selection of his videos, Charles Irvin is also slated to conduct some live yoga, via Skype. “Hopefully,” Craft adds. “We’re still working on getting wifi.” There will be music performances as well, though the details are still to come. “It will certainly be an experiment,” Craft laughs. Welcome to the Wild West.
Paramount Ranch (2903 Cornell Rd., Agoura Hills; firstname.lastname@example.org) will be open and free to the public on Feb. 1 and 2 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
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