Art Los Angeles Contemporary Director Previews the Santa Monica Fair

Ruby Neri sculpture - P 2014
Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery

Ruby Neri sculpture - P 2014

At the Soho House, ALAC director Tim Fleming outlined what the fair held at Santa Monica's Barker Hangar will offer; that is, intimate experiences between the city's galleries and the public.

The topic at the preview for the Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair at the Soho House in West Hollywood was intimacy.

Sitting on a panel with collector Stanley Hollander and two gallerists who will be among the fair’s vendors -- Tif Sigfrids who runs an eponymous new gallery in Hollywood and Brian Butler of 1301PE in Miracle Mile -- ALAC director Tim Fleming outlined what the fair can offer to a city brimming with art, but short on infrastructure: intimate experiences between galleries and the public. Held at the Barker Hangar in the Santa Monica Municipal Airport Jan. 30 through Feb. 2, the fair is the only contemporary-only fair in L.A.

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Now in their fifth year, ALAC annually accommodates 70 booths, which is about a quarter the size of Art Basel. This makes for an unusually intimate fair -- about 12,000 people walked through the turnstiles last year -- which offers a less stressful experience for collectors, vendors, and visitors. Fleming touts the ease of parking and the quality of the food, which is catered by Silver Lake-based restaurant Forage. “Intelligentsia Coffee was our first coffee vendor, and then they started popping up at the Frieze Art Fair and NADA. If there’s one thing I’ll leave behind in the art fair business it’s that we brought quality coffee to the table,” Fleming says, half-jokingly.

Butler, who represents some of L.A.’s most beloved artists such as Pae White, Diana Thater, Fiona Connor and Uta Barth, calls the fair “homegrown,” which is why he participates. In fact, he explains, he sees certain members of the L.A. collector contingency more at the fair than in his gallery. “I think of L.A. as a city of hedges,” says Butler. “On Saturday and Sunday, they like to garden rather than come to galleries. Unless you have appointments or openings, getting people out of the house is not such a great thing in L.A. It’s not like New York or London. We see people that we year after year try and coax to the gallery, and sometimes we only see them once a year, because people in L.A. like events.”

Fleming outlined this year’s big changes, namely, an expanded focus on bringing in out-of-town galleries, scaling back the number of L.A.-based galleries from last year’s tally of one-half down to one-third of the booths this year. Also, he announced a partnership with web-based archive Artsy, who will broadcast the fair to the world on their site. Fleming went on to discuss the synchronization with the LA Art Book Fair, which will be at the Museum of Contemporary Art on the same weekend. “I want a little bit more frenzy this year,” says Fleming, who hopes ALAC will spur a weekender of ancillary events.

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Some highlights to look forward to at the fair include a solo project by L.A.-based sculptor Ruby Neri at David Kordansky Gallery, an installation by Mark Hagen which will house artbook distribution company D.A.P.’s bookstore, a talk by legendary art critic and author Dave Hickey about his new book Pirates and Farmers, a bawdy sculpture of a large-scale masturbating “lucky cat” at the Various Small Fires booth, Nathaniel Mellors’ solo show at Monitor gallery (Rome) and New York-based nail art salon Vanity Projects’ Perrier-sponsored pop-up for the visitors of the fair. “We just got confirmation of that,” Fleming tells The Hollywood Reporter. Fleming credits ALAC’s program director Spencer Douglass and communications director Alex Couri with organizing the fair’s suite of events.Hollander, for his part, admitted he’ll be on the prowl for a few particular pieces. “[You] can be dealt with,” he warns his collecting competitors. “There are great opportunities at the fair -- for new collectors, too.”

Apart from L.A.’s collector royalty, ALAC promises to be a gathering place for art mavens from the industry. Fleming expects Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka to attend this year, as well as Grey’s Anatomy’s Jesse Williams, who collects with his wife Aryn Drakelee-Williams. Attendees last year included Dean ValentineSteve MartinJason Schwartzman and Anton Yelchin. On the committee this year is Justine Bateman. “Orlando Bloom, in fact, discovered [rising L.A. art star] Sam Falls at Art Los Angeles Contemporary,” Fleming tells THR.