Fairs Market USA

For Los Angeles fairs, change is good

The city’s longest-running event, Photo LA moves closer to LA Art Show and gets a boost in visitors

Sometimes change is a good thing. With the closing of the Santa Monica Civic Center, Photo LA (16-19 January), Los Angeles’ longest-running art fair, strategically relocated its 23rd edition to the LA Mart building, just south of downtown Los Angeles. That put it near the Los Angeles Convention Center, the venue of the LA Art Show (15-19 January). Attendance at Photo LA got a big boost from the move—hitting 18,000 visitors, up from 12,000 last year. “People are curious when something’s new, even a new location,” says the fair’s co-director Claudia Bartlett, adding that the fairs’ proximity helped. “We ran a shuttle between the two, and people took advantage of it.” There was also less competition, as Art Los Angeles Contemporary moved its dates to two weeks later (30 January-2 February), and will be held in Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar.

With far more space at the LA Mart (50,000 sq. ft versus 30,000 sq. ft), Photo LA could increase the number of dealers taking part, from 45 to 55. Part of the push to expand the scope of the fair meant finding newer dealers like the West Hollywood-based Meliksetian Briggs. Its co-director Michael Briggs says: “We’re not photography dealers, but we included artists working with photographic images, like Aura Rosenberg, Cody Trepte and Mustafa Hulusi.” He says the gallery sold two prints by Trepte for $2,500 a piece, and had strong interest in a work by Rosenberg.

For photography dealers, the event is a mainstay. “In 2013, we had our best Photo LA ever in terms of sales,” says Sid Monroe of Monroe Gallery of Photogray, Sante Fe, “we knew it would be ambitious to expect to top that this year, but we came close.” They sold over 20 prints, a number from the Civil Rights era, including Steve Schapiro’s gelatin silver prints for more than $3,000 each, and a large-format color work by Stephen Wilkes for $20,000.

Meanwhile, at the LA Art Show, which is operating for the second year under the Palm Beach Show Group, attendance remained at 50,000 visitors, although the number of exhibitors was up, 140 compared to last year’s 110. It was an eclectic fair, showing everything from Impressionism to contemporary to “underground” artists, and thisyear there was a solid Asian presence from China and South Korea. One section that got a lot of buzz was “Littletopia” organised by the New Orleans Red Truck Gallery, showing quirkier works such as artist-made books and Goth illustrations.

At Timothy Yarger Fine Art from Beverly Hills, the total number of pieces sold as well as the price points were better than last year. Among their sales were a wall-size black-painted sculpture by Louise Nevelson for over $100,000 on opening night (and three more pieces by Nevelson from the fair are at a collector’s house under consideration). They also sold four paintings by the German artist Udo Noger for $8,000 to $40,000. “And being based in LA, there are also successful follow-ups,” said the gallery’s owner, Tim Yarger.

The fair also turned out well for dealers outside California. Waterhouse & Dodd of New York and London sold six contemporary works, including a large concept drawing with fabric swatch of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates” project in Central Park ($100,000) and two of Jean-François Rauzier’s hyper-photos for $26,000 each. Richard J. Demato Gallery of Sag Harbor, reported sales of over $250,000, but would not provide details.

The leading Los Angeles dealer Jack Rutberg was especially pleased with this year’s turnout. The fair was “very successful on all fronts—sales, meeting wonderful people, both collectors and prospects,” he said. The gallery’s sales at the fair included two works on paper by Jackson Pollock ($25,000 each), a charcoal drawing by Hans Burkhardt ($19,000), and several mixed media wall sculptures by Jordi Alcaraz ($15,000-$25,000). And the following, he reports happily, clients are coming into his gallery to purchase works by artists seen there.

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