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The rainmakers in the Los Angeles art world were out Saturday night in the drenched but buzzing new Hollywood/Highland art center. And it is a testament to the value of pure art as a cultural commodity that one of the hottest openings of the new year was at the nonprofit Los Angeles institution LAXART, which has just moved from Culver City to a renovated industrial building at 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard.
LAXART joins emerging gallerists Hannah Hoffman, Esther Kim Varet (Various Small Fires), Kelsey Lee Offield (Gusford), Sarah Gavlak (Gavlak) and more established dealers Michael Kohn, Regen Projects, Steve Turner, Redling Fine Art and Diane Rosenstein in the hot new cultural corridor on and around Highland Avenue between Melrose and Santa Monica Boulevard. A number of neighboring galleries also were opening exhibitions Saturday night, and the area is reaching the type of critical mass that put Culver City on the map as a gallery center in past years.
LAXART is the coconut milk of the art community’s curry. Now in its 10th year of operation as an exhibition space and hub for artists, it binds together all the various components — the artists, collectors, curators, directors and writers — that keep the system vital. On Saturday night, LAXART brought together producers Jenny Fritz and Michael Schreiber, producer Jonathan Komack Martin, manager Michael Price, writer J.B. Bogulski, actor Jesse Williams,TV producer Ben Spector, director of Via Arts Bridgitt Evans, board members Brooke Kanter, Michael and Joyce Ostin, Ron Handler, Bettina Korek, Christopher Yin and John Yoon, Charlie Pohlad, Darren Romanelli, Kelsey Lee Offield, Jennifer Hawks and Joseph Varet.
LAXART board member and Dr. Romanelli designer/director Darren Romanelli, left, and JB Bogulski attend LAXART’s opening reception on January 10.
Also in attendance were MOCA director Philippe Vergne and Sylvia Chivaratanond, Oliver Furth, LACMA curators Christine Y. Kim and Rita Gonzalez, Hammer curator Anne Ellegood and artists Sterling Ruby, Melanie Schiff, Alex Israel, Piero Golia, Mary Weatherford, Dashiell Manley, Rodney McMillian, Shana Lutker, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Kori Newkirk, Scoli Acosta, Sam Falls, Lisa Williamson, Jedediah Caesar and Kate Costello, Ben Medansky, Roby Reynolds, Mary Wigmore and Mario Ybarra.
The majority of stories out of the art world in recent years revolve around the skyrocketing values of emerging artists’ works, but at its core art is about education — and collecting is about learning. THR spoke with artists Martinez and Ybarra about how LAXART furthers arts education in the community. Martinez, whose work has been featured in two Whitney Biennales, sees nonprofit spaces being completely sympathetic with the commercial art world. “I’m not anti-market, what I am is pro-ideas — people that want to make things are experimental, unimaginable. That’s our philosophy, our ambition, to provide that kind of platform. Think about the space as a technology — this place is a platform for artists.” Also an educator for 25 years, Martinez is a die-hard defender of the role of the artist in society: “Even though the average person in the United States doesn’t know that they need artists, they actually do. Because artists are clothing designers, they make fine art, architecture. We make and design everything for the culture. They need us!”
LAXART curator and director Lauri Firstenberg, left, with For Your Art founder Bettina Korek at the LAXART opening reception on January 10.
His former student and protege Ybarra continues the passionate tutelage of Martinez through his work with the artist collective Slanguage. The group has been offered an indefinite residency in the new LAXART building where Ybarra and his collective will be presenting a series of educational prografor children aged 8 to late teens. He plans to recruit professionals in the film and art communities to mentor children in professional practices, so they will understand that “things just don’t happen overnight,” he explains. “People make mistakes, they go down certain paths and learn from them. You’ve got to have a plan and have discipline.
“Music producer and LAXART board member Handler echoed the sentiments of Martinez and Ybarra regarding the critical role of the institution in the community: “The thing about LAXART is that it is one of the few places that gives opportunity to a lot of people. In a world where art is a commodity and where money is being made, it’s nice to have something that isn’t really about that. It’s about art. That’s the special thing about this place.”
For more information about LAXART, visit www.laxart.org.