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A. Moret - Writer and Art Critic

Art Los Angeles Contemporary- ArtInfo (February 2010)

Apart from its mammoth proportions, illuminating facade that reflects sunlight as if its exterior were made of water and the annexed permanent exhibition space for MOCA, the “Blue Whale” has remained a fantastical albatross in the middle of Los Angeles, laying low on the radars of Angelino art collectors.  All that changed this year when Fair Grounds Associates founder and former director of ART LA and photo Miami fairs Tim Fleming and Charles S. Cohen owner of four major design centers throughout the country, determined the Pacific Design Center would serve as the site for the inaugural production of Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC) from January 28-31. No longer was the Pacific Design Center considered for its endless showrooms but as a 50,000 square foot melting pot for 55 blue chip and emerging galleries from Los Angeles and around the globe.  Unlike the annual LA Art Show at the Convention Center in Downtown, Los Angeles ALAC is a juried event and the selection committee includes Los Angeles galleries 1301 PE, David Kordansky Gallery, Peres Projects, and Susanne Vielmetter who are based in Los Angeles and Berlin. Director Tim Fleming believes the proximity of the Pacific Design Center to neighboring galleries and the Culver City Art Walk reinforces the connection of art in the urban fabric of the city.  Fleming explains “it’s nice to have the confidence that people are coming in town for the event and that they could very easily get around to all the different events.  Whether it’s the Culver City Art Walk or the installation at the former Ferus Gallery,” on La Cienega Boulevard featuring the original roster of artists.

The Pacific Design Center is indeed more centrally located than previous art fairs, but Angles Gallery Director Nowell Karten doesn’t feel the labyrinth floor plan is practical.  “It’s an odd venue,” he remarks.  “The fair previously was in the Barker Hanger which is an empty airplane hangar where you can put up walls and make a nice clean presentation.  You put up light, you put down carpet, and you make a nice clean rectilinear grid that people can walk up and down the halls.  They came here because they wanted to be centrally located but the floor plan is ridiculous.  I know that people are walking in that door on my right and walking around in a horse shoe and going out the other end and missing these rows here and have no idea what they missed.”  Karten concluded that he has very mixed feelings about showing the works of emerging artist Annie Lapin next to a carpet salesman.

Despite mixed reactions about the new space, viewing art through storefront windows commodified the artwork and made it appealing to collectors.  The ALAC boasts the most affordable admission cost ($16.00) of any fair this month, attracting 9,000 attendees and collectors from the United States and the UK, as well as celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris, Anthony Kiedis, Rachel Griffiths, and Drew Barrymore.   While closing sales are still being tabulated and galleries remain tight-lipped about profits, Fair Grounds Associates indicated that a Phoenix couple and a man from San Francisco purchased works at the fair.  Fair Grounds continues to hear that collectors felt the Pacific Design Center’s relaxed atmosphere made it easier for them to purchase works on the spot.  Exhibiting next to carpet salesmen may not be a conventional manner to display art, but collectors certainly responded.

Attendees could not miss John Miller’s room of fiercely shining imitation gold leaf works with assorted materials such as plaster, cloth, and Styrofoam incorporated in the sculpture. Miller’s works seem to usher in a renewed consumer confidence.  Michael Briggs, Director of Patrick Painter, understands the popularity of Miller’s work and sees a “pick up in the higher end as well as the lower end.  Obviously it’s not like the boom times again in 2006 or 2007 but it’s pretty steady- there are serious collectors and they are still buying serious art.” Michelle Pobar, Director of Honor Fraser, agrees with Briggs and adds “$10-30,000 is a great price range right now.  People are really responding to that range of work.”  Honor Fraser is proud to introduce Robert Lazzorini, a sculptor who has received notoriety all over the world but never in Los Angeles.  Ironically Lazorinni is an Angelino himself.

While it’s still unknown which artists were most sought after, Fair Grounds Associates began a preliminary dialogue with a handful of galleries and learned that Sage Vaughn (Kim Light), Erin Shireff (Lisa Cooley, John Miller (Patrick Painter), Kerry Tribe, Pae White, and John Reynolds (1301 PE) sold works and I-20 from New York sold two large extruded video engines from artist Peter Sarkisian each in the $100,000 range.  A buzz generated about New York based Lisi Raskin whose works are inspired by nuclear missile sites.  Co-founded in 2008 The Company is lead by curator Anat Ebgi and artist Annie Wharton. Although Art Los Angeles Contemporary marks their first appearance in a fair they stood out. Annie Wharton believes that Raskin’s collage work is already proving to be a popular medium for collectors.  “The notion of the handmade, taking paper and re-working into very elaborate pieces,” makes the work intimate and unique.

As director of the first Art Los Angeles Contemporary, Tim Fleming has brought all facets of the Los Angeles art scene together under one very large roof.