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Three preteens followed their mother and her friend into a dark room off an old west, Dodge City-style main street. Inside the room, a dazzling laser light show of fluorescent strobe lights danced around the walls and ceiling, emanating from a complicated tangle of digital devices and power cords on the floor. Mini-rave or contemporary art installation? Pausing for a moment, one of the kids says, “Mom, are you going to buy that?”
This moment at the second installment of the Paramount Ranch art fair at the pioneer town studio set in Agoura Hills is a fine example of the complex spatial gymnastics necessary to host an art fair in Los Angeles. This weekend saw the apogee of the new fair scene in LA, with the sixth installation of Art Los Angeles Contemporary, Printed Matter’s third annual L.A. Art Book Fair and the sophomore edition of the Paramount Ranch fair all taking place across the broad city. Some of these new fairs in L.A. (along with Paris Photo, housed at Paramount Studios in the spring) occupy unconventional studio sets that echo the manufactured spectacle of Tinseltown. And budding collectors in the industry are jumping on the wagon.
Art Los Angeles Contemporary, in particular, is attracting virgin and veteran collectors from the film and television worlds. The fair has grown precipitously in attendance in recent years and it has also expanded its range of international exhibitors. This year the fair drew a healthy crowd from the entertainment industry with attendees including Tobey Maguire, Sam Trammell, Joel Kinnaman, Jesse Williams, Lisa Edelstein, Ricki Lake, Fran Drescher, Joy Simmons, Alison Pill, David Alan Grier, CAA’s Joel Lubin and Justine Bateman.
Established L.A. galleries ACME, Marc Selwyn, 1301PE and Richard Telles were joined by emerging American and European galleries like Alden Projects, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco; Brand New Gallery, Milan; as well as Various Small Fires and Grice Bench from L.A. At the preview event Thursday, Fair director Tim Fleming pointed out that attendance had basically doubled in each of the past two years and was clearly optimistic about this year’s event. Asked about whether the fair might ever outgrow Barker Hanger, Fleming was very clear: “Barker is our home. We are looking at how we can expand in the future with tents outdoors so that we do not have to leave this location.”
An unexpected highlight of ALAC was the collaborative performance piece at Tif Sigfrid’s gallery booth. According to artist Joe Sola, whose paintings were on display at the booth: “Tif just had a baby a few days ago and since we knew this was going to coincide with the fair, I suggested we hire car salespeople to work the booth as I often go for test drives and figured that the right car salesperson could easily handle the exciting high pressure atmosphere of the art fair. We interviewed a few candidates and ended going with Brandon Cogcaj of Lexus and Dan Wessel of Tesla. I did studio visits with both of them to talk about the paintings and Tif sent them both each binders on my work so they could familiarize themselves with my previous projects. They were both very excited to work, for the first time, in the contemporary art market for the weekend.” At the Thursday night opening event Lexus dealer Cogcaj displayed an enthusiasm uncommon in the art world, where a certain aristocratic cool prevails. Patrons who caught word of the salesmen were practically lining up to be “sold” by the stand-in salesman.
In addition to the gallery booths, ALAC hosted a series of talks and panel discussions at the fair site and coordinated access to an Art Law Conference presented by Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Claremont Graduate University. The fair also expanded its off-site VIP programming to include visits to the studios of Los Angeles artists Matthew Brandt and Ry Rocklyn and tours of the collections of Eugenio Lopez, Sam andSanit Schwartz, Danny First and others. The programming wrapped up Sunday with a tour of the Stanley Whitney show at the new Team gallery Bungalow space in Venice followed by a tour of Abbott Kinney with Why Architecture’s Kulapat Yantrasast culminating with a video installation event at the architect’s Venice home.
The second iteration of the Paramount Ranch fair brought in a great crowd, as well. Young gallerists from the US, Europe and Asia occupied the studio set storefronts and exterior grounds of the old ranch site in Agoura Hills. Presentations of bold, content-rich work fared the best at Paramount Ranch, where the fabricated town itself becomes a part of every viewing experience at the fair. Strong booths included Kai Matsumiya, New York; Lulu, Mexico City; L.A. gallerist Hannah Hoffman; surfboard sculptures by Dingum, Berlin; Hacienda, Zurich; and powerful mixed-media works by Fukushima, Japan’s Green Tea Gallery, which included a sculpture with a Geiger counter sound component.
With atmospheric, experimental prog-rock wafting through the faux western outpost, hipsters and young families milled quietly about the dusty streets. The fair is pushing the boundaries of what the new commerce of art might look like, so it may take another year for the collector set to descend on the budding affair.
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