The buzzy global fair blankets Los Angeles with unmissable art and events
Words by PETER DAVIS
Bursting with ever-expanding museums, new galleries and a population of local art stars, Los Angeles is officially one of the most important culture centers on the planet. The sophomore year of Frieze L.A. — the West Coast outpost of the celebrated international art fair started in 1991 by Amanda Sharp, Matthew Slotover and Tom Gidley with the launch of Frieze magazine — not only is set to break the astounding sold-out attendance (30,000 people) and sales records of last year’s show, but will also infuse the city with edgy exhibits, a groundbreaking film series, public art pieces and an influx of visitors from all over the globe.
“It’s a city that has always been incredibly important for art because of the art schools as well as the great museums and galleries,” says Victoria Siddall, the director of Frieze Fairs. “With The Broad [and other] museums opening, we’ve seen an increase in energy and activity over the last five to 10 years. Big international galleries are opening in L.A. [Frieze L.A.] builds on that foundation.” Attracting serious collectors, artists, gallerists, critics and art lovers who come to window-shop, the fair has quickly evolved into a seven-day citywide art takeover known as Frieze Week, which is also the name of a publication dedicated to the occasion.
To promote the event this year, a campaign centered on Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Questions) project will be up for months throughout the city on banners and near landmark locations. There will be numerous programs and off-site events in partnership with local museums and arts organizations. “We really want to make it feel almost like a festival across the city,” explains Siddall. “A celebration of art and culture.” Don’t miss the many standout exhibits and gallery shows occuring now through the fair, including “Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again” at The Broad, “Betye Saar: Call and Response” and “Julie Mehretu” at LACMA, “Open House: Gala Porras-Kim” at The Museum of Contemporary Art and “George Rodriguez: Double Vision” at the Vincent Price Art Museum.
“L.A. is a city that has always been incredibly important for art”
For the main event, Frieze L.A. will return to the iconic Paramount Pictures back lot on Melrose Avenue. The location makes sense: The fair has a solid partnership with powerhouse entertainment agency Endeavor, and staging the show on a movie-studio lot adds drama to the experience. “It’s an interesting metaphor for this city itself in that way,” muses Bettina Korek, the executive director of Frieze L.A. “There is a trope of people coming to L.A. to reinvent themselves. I think for people who live here and for people who are visiting, having the fair on a working Hollywood lot captures some of that movie magic that people are looking for.” The setting creates countless organically cinematic moments — perfectly encapsulating Hollywood and, of course, offering endless Instagrammable moments. “All the soundstages are active essentially while the fair is on,” says Korek. “So people are walking around while productions are being made and then when you step onto the back lot you have these fake New York streets with palm trees and the Hollywood sign in the background.”
More than 70 galleries are a part of the fair, with new additions to the roster this year including David Lewis, Gaga, Gavin Brown’s enterprise, Gladstone Gallery, Goodman Gallery, Skarstedt and Xavier Hufkens. Rita Gonzalez is curating what Korek refers to as the “L.A.-focused section,” which will feature the city’s younger galleries (15 years old or less), and Venus Lau, the artistic director of the K11 Art Foundation, is curating the Frieze Film section. “Obviously we have these amazing theaters. We have the Paramount Theatre, which has incredible cinematics,” says Siddall. “So one of the things we thought about is: How do we really use that space? And so Venus has been invited to curate the program with us. They’ll be screened every day and people can come and see them on the cinema screen.”
In addition to art, film and numerous openings and parties all week long, the fair is highlighting organizations on-site at Paramount. The Women’s Center for Creative Work, Artists for Democracy and Black Lives Matter are just three that will be featured prominently.
“The cities that we’ve chosen to do fairs in — London, New York and now Los Angeles — are key cultural cities,” Siddall says. “There is a huge appetite for culture there, but also a desire for people from all over the world to visit those cities. To see everything that they have to offer. … What I’m really passionate about is the degree to which we are laying a foundation for an annual moment that will encourage visitors and locals to experience art in Los Angeles.”
Feb. 14-16, 2020.
Feature image: Works by JUDY CHICAGO exhibited at the JEFFREY DEITCH booth at FRIEZE LOS ANGELES 2019. Photo by Mark Blower.
This story originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of C Magazine.
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