Fairs Market USA

A better venue but patchy sales for Art Platform Los Angeles

The Merchandise Mart-owned fair benefited from its move to Santa Monica’s Barker Hanger, but the organisers want to draw more collectors

Art Platform Los Angeles (28-30 September) returned for its second year, this time installed at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, a popular fair venue that is more convenient for many collectors than the event’s first home in the Merchandise Mart-owned LA Mart building in downtown Los Angeles. While this year’s fair had a lower-profile slate of dealers (numbering 73, down from 75), it managed to draw 13,500 visitors—slightly more than last year’s 12,500.

Art fairs in Los Angeles have had a bumpy history, and last September MMPI, which also runs the Armory Show, took advantage of the momentum created by Pacific Standard Time, the region-wide art initiative funded by the Getty Foundation, to launch the first Art Platform.

“I want there to be more collectors in this town, I want more collectors to come to this town,” said Adam Gross, the fair’s executive director. To that end, the organisers hired architect Frederick Fisher to advise on the show’s design in the Barker Hangar, and set up a new tent which nearly doubled the exhibition space. There were no blue chip dealers from New York, however, and LA’s larger galleries such as LA Louver and Blum & Poe were largely absent. The exception was Louis Stern, because “we did well last year, and our work shows well with the mix of contemporary art,” said the gallery’s director Marie Chambers. Their booth featured paintings by the hard-edged school including Helen Lundeberg and John McLaughlin.

Having lost some dealers from last year, Gross courted new ones. The photography dealer Peter Fetterman, who says he does ten fairs a year, joined for the first time. “Photography is good for young collectors because of the price point,” he said. Prints in his booth ranged from $1,000 to $20,000. By Saturday he had sold several Elisabeth Sunday platinum/palladium portraits of Ghanan fisherman and the Fula people from Mali, including Distance, 2008, for $9,500, and Binta, 2010, for $6,000.

“Traffic has been good, and I’m impressed with the diversity of collectors,” said the dealer Edward Cella, who has a gallery on Wilshire Boulevard and was also new to the fair. He brought a selection of his artists, and made four sales, three to new clients. That included two lenticular prints by George Legrady for $9,500 each, and a Penelope Gottlieb acrylic and ink on paper, Lycium Verrucosum, 2012, for $15,000.

One runaway success at Art Platform was Whitestone Gallery from Tokyo, which featured work from Japan’s post-war Gutai group, most of them by Chiyu Uemae. They sold out most of their inventory during the preview. Sales numbered 15 paintings, two textiles and two sculptural works ranging from $50,000-$200,000. “The works are very well priced, and many have not been seen in public before,” said Naoto Kakumoto, Whitestone’s international marketing manager. He pointed out the renewed attention on Gutai artists in Japan and the US. Kakumoto declined to say who the buyers were but said that they included “some from Los Angeles, some outside Los Angeles, some from abroad.”

While sales were not as spritely as some hoped, Marie Chambers noted: “The sales are often after the fair—after they go home and measure the space over the couch.”

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28 Dec 12
21:30 CET


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