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What the Fifth Frieze Los Angeles Has Up Its Sleeve

As the fair returns to Santa Monica, director Christine Messineo unveils her plans for the most formidable lineup yet

Words by ELIZABETH VARNELL

 

LEFT: Spectators at Frieze. PHOTO: Casey Kelbaugh. RIGHT: Christine Messineo. PHOTO: Ramsey Alderson.

 

Frieze Los Angeles is back at the Santa Monica Airport for a second year, this time housing its annual confluence of international blue chip and renegade galleries inside one bespoke Kulapat Yantrasast tent. Director Christine Messineo says she’s striving to foster discovery and connections to works from emerging and less traditional backgrounds through the new layout during the fair’s weekend-long run from February 29 to March 3. Local stalwarts including Regen Projects, Blum, Various Small Fires, The Box, Hannah Hoffman, L.A. Louver, Nonaka-Hill, and Jeffrey Deitch join David Kordansky, Lisson Gallery, Karma, Matthew Marks, Sean Kelly, Hauser & Wirth, Gagosian, and Lehmann Maupin on the sprawling site, where 95 galleries show a cross-section of influential contemporary art surrounded by site-specific works curated by Art Production Fund and eateries organized by nonprofit Regarding Her.

The fair, now in its fifth iteration, has become a galvanizing force in L.A., according to Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin. “The effect since its debut in 2019 has been pretty seismic,” she says, noting she has watched the art scene in the city explode over the quarter century she’s lived here. “That’s thanks first and foremost to the artists who have called it home,” she says. Messineo agrees; she sees the fair as a way to bring many of the divergent aspects of the local art community into conversation with the international scene. “Our intent is to enhance a sense of community within the art fair environment, both throughout the fair’s footprint at the airport and across the city,” she says. Native daughter Lauren Halsey is part of Gagosian’s Social Abstraction offering, curated by Antwaun Sargent with a focus on intergenerational Black artists, and Sprüth Magers is showing site-specific work by L.A.-based Barbara Kruger plus Jenny Holzer, Louise Lawler, Sylvie Fleury, and Rosemarie Trockel, all of whom explore the text, media, and consumerism juggernaut.

 

Gary Tyler, Remembrance, 2023. PHOTO: Tim Johnson, courtesy of the artist and Library Street Collective.

 

This year, Messineo tapped Essence Harden of the California African American Museum to head the fair’s space for emerging talent. “Given Harden’s connections here and her work at CAAM, there is a strong local contingent this year within the Focus section,” Messineo says. Mustafa Ali Clayton’s ebony-glazed ceramic portraits and a new terra-cotta series are on view at Dominique Gallery. Shulamit Nazarian is showing L.A.-based Haitian photographer Widline Cadet’s intimate images. Messineo says the space’s location is also key. “These younger, dynamic U.S. galleries are situated directly across from an exhibition of work by Gary Tyler, the recipient of this year’s Frieze Impact Prize, organized with The Center for Art & Advocacy to award an artist impacted by the criminal justice system with funding and a stand at the fair,” she says.

Casey Fremont curated Art Production Fund’s open-to-the-public show, Set Scene, on view throughout the airport. Projects created by Pippa Garner, Sharif Farrag, Derek Fordjour, and Ryan Flores appear in dialogue with 1940s work by Hollywood set designers to conceal the Douglas Aircraft Company factory during World War II. “I’m especially excited that some of the works this year, including two sculptures by Matt Johnson and Cynthia Talmadge, will remain on view well beyond the fair dates,” says Messineo, who credits the City of Santa Monica for the extended viewing window.

 

Cynthia Talmadge, Class Gift, 2022. PHOTO: Courtesy of the artist, 56 Henry, New York, and Carl Kostyal, London.

 

Reparations Club, a Black-owned independent bookstore, is one of five nonprofits the fair is hosting this year. Music is also on tap, including a live Sudan Archives performance featuring Brittney Parks’ mix of R&B, hip-hop, electronic, and West African fiddling that takes place on February 29 at the Hammer Museum. L.A. Louver artist Terry Allen, whose work is on view at the fair, joins his Panhandle Mystery Band to take the stage at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on February 28 and 29. Next to the Santa Monica Pier, the inaugural Los Angeles Wine & Food Festival brings weekend-long tastings from restaurants including Camphor, Holbox, and Bé Ù, March 1 to 3.

Of the countless events, exhibitions, and special programs on view elsewhere around town during the fair, Messineo’s must-sees include Anna Sew Hoy’s group exhibition Scratching at the Moon at the ICA LA with work by 13 artists from L.A.’s Asian American community on view through May 12. The Hammer Museum’s talk Voices of the Diaspora on March 3, led in part by independent curator Danielle Shang, focuses on an array of artists addressing broader visibility for marginalized creative communities. Clara Kim and Paula Kroll’s Paul Pfeiffer retrospective, Prologue to the Story of the Birth of Freedom at MOCA, is open through June 16. Messineo is also looking forward to seeing Low the solo exhibition by John Garcia curated by Jay Ezra Nayssan at Del Vaz Projects. 3027 Airport Ave., Santa Monica; frieze.com.

 

PHOTO: Casey Kelbaugh.

 

Feature image: Ser Serpas, Untitled, 2024. PHOTO: Courtesy of the artist and Quinn Harrelson.

 

February 21, 2024

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