California Dreamin’

Left: Adrian Brody, China Chow, and Art Los Angeles Contemporary director Tim Fleming. Right: Artist Glenn Kaino. (Photos: Charley Gallay/WireImage)

LOS ANGELES HOLDS SWAY as the promised land, with plenty of space for everyone’s dreams, a city always ever just about to be. When art fair organizers dream of Los Angeles, they conjure something like the intro to a soft-core porno, something beachy and free and easy with wealthy collectors trailing after cruising movie stars who are ready to deliver, offscreen, the necessary money shot. Along with the sophomore iteration of Art Los Angeles Contemporary, which ran the weekend before last, it seems that the Merchandise Mart has been having its own California dreams, materializing this September as Art Platform—Los Angeles.

It was a straight shot down I-10 that Thursday from the city’s nondescript downtown towers to the beach, out of the smog and into the sunsetting lavender and gold, one of those beautiful days in LA that makes East Coasters all weepy. (More than a few of said ECers were stuck in the snow and couldn’t actually make it.) The usually traffic-choked drive took a merciful quarter hour. I waltzed right into the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport and set to leisurely grazing the assembled wares during the vernissage.

Meandering through the booths (no churn and bustle just yet—this baby was a sauntering affair), I passed by collectors (yes, collectors) doing the same, and kind of a lot of them. Herb and Lenore Schorr were getting successfully hustled (not by a dealer, take note) to buy a piece by Paul Heyer at the Night Gallery/Eighth Veil booth. MoCA LA trustee Kathi Cypres was touring with curator Bennett Simpson, and Parker Jones was giving his pitch in front of a painting by Gerald Davis, which sold before the fair even cracked its doors. All of this occasional deal making (more than enough, I heard, if the dealers are to be trusted) was punctuated by the periodically deafening roar overhead of planes taking off and landing.

Left: Artist Liz Glynn. Right: Dealer Joel Mesler. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)

Passing one of the strongest booths at the fair—David Kordansky’s unlikely pairing of Thomas Lawson and Richard Jackson—I skipped out to a tent set up adjacent to the hanger and an amphitheater made of discarded art crates, designed by Liz Glynn to host many of the weekend’s public performances. It was also where the bar was, so Glynn and I sipped cocktails along with her LA dealer Erica Redling, lounging on the crates, until I lounged myself right off of one, crashing but with drink unspilt.

I headed back into the fair to catch a Brendan Fowler performance at the booth for Joel Mesler’s Untitled, which actually had no artwork in it at all but was wallpapered with a replica of Mesler’s booth as it had appeared in the online VIP Art Fair the week before (complete with contemplative shadow). Nothing was for sale. “I didn’t even bring an iPad,” Mesler said before launching into a description of his latest project, a “Greater LA” exhibition in New York he is organizing with the curator Benjamin Godsill and collector Eleanor Cayre, the size and scope of which is intended to rival MoMA PS1’s New York version. “We want to show that LA is better on New York’s own fucking turf.”

As the crowd dissipated, I drove the few hundred yards up the street to Anthony Pearson’s house, where the artist was hosting a party with his wife, Ramona Trent. I’m always astonished by the sheer awesomeness of the view from their Mar Vista bungalow. A twenty-six-foot-long glass wall slid away to let in the balmy night air and afford a panorama of Century City, while a coterie of mostly artists munched on empanadas. It’s one of those tropes of art fairs (or any events like art fairs) that you endlessly talk about the fair, and this was no different. Except, that is, for the question that Los Angeles–based artist Nathan Hylden asked after taking one look at my tie: “So you actually went to the art fair?”

Left: Dealer Parker Jones with Mihai Nicodim’s Luanna Hildebrandt. Right: Dealer Jessica Silverman and critic Franklin Melendez. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)

And I did again, but not the following day, when I sneaked into a visit at collector and Jumex juice heir Eugenio López’s home in Beverly Hills. He was not in attendance (even if he was in town), but his amiable curator Esthella Provas rattled through the works on view with a series of loose hand gestures. To paraphrase: “That one’s a Cattelan, the orange one’s a Warhol, those are by Donald Judd. Here’s an Orozco, a Hirst. That one there’s by Alan Seurat. This one’s by Paul McCarthy. On the coffee table is a Calder. That’s by Joel Morrison. And yes, that big one over there is Gursky.” There was a book on hand to fill in some of the blanks; the audience’s sotto voce commentary gave some more (“He got that Morrison at the Armory last year. Joel’s supposed to make us a piece, but I guess he’s got priorities . . . ”). This was just the living room.

We all trundled outside where a big, flat, yellow Jeff Koons elephant presided over the lounge area. Is it ever polished? someone asked. Esthella: “Sometimes for parties. At 5 AM, it looks like it’s sweating. It’s really beautiful.” We broke for soft drinks. Yes, Jumex was served.

After hours banging around the city from Hollywood to Chinatown, I ended the night at 3 AM at Mike Kelley’s old studio at the Farley Building in Eagle Rock, where a smattering of young artists and noise aficionados (including local legend John Wiese) were gathered to watch a mélange of musicians, including Kelley, perform. I arrived late but still managed to fall out of the Incredible Hulk bounce house (I know, it’s a theme) and catch Kelley on pipes (with Dave Muller just behind, manning a sizable tuba) marching out of the building and into the cluster of smokers gathered in the back parking lot.

Left: Liz Glynn's amphitheater. (Photo: John Sciulli/WireImage) Right: Artists Mike Kelley (front) and Dave Muller. (Photo: Andrew Berardini)

Amid visions of sweating elephants and marching tubas, I woke bright and early the next day to head downtown to USC for a VIP visit to the school’s grad studios, mostly because I was curious to find out what a grad studio visit on an art fair “VIP schedule” meant. It means that a handful of ladies with Birkins and I wander around the open studios while the students eat the croissants. MFA director Charlie White was on hand, supervising with his typical warmth and dynamism. “I just like having brunch with the students,” he said.

The rest of the day felt like the usual art fair jaunt, jogging from event to event: first Glenn Kaino and Derek DelGaudio’s magic performance back at the fair, then an evening cocktail at local patrons Christopher Yin and John Yoon’s downtown loft to celebrate the Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s inauguration of a grant program for emerging artists in Los Angeles. This was followed by a trip to the Hammer for the opening of its final Hammer Invitational (to be replaced by a Los Angeles biennial) cocurated by Anne Ellegood and Douglas Fogle, and then a dinner at the Mondrian in West Hollywood. I cut through the smattering of Lolitas lounging around the lobby with their substantially older investment banker boyfriends and walked into the dinner a bit late. Many of the weekend’s cast of characters sat clustered on the outdoor patio: LA collector Blake Byrne waxed rhapsodic to the Horts about a promising young painter he’d seen at the fair (Kevin Cosgrove at Dublin-based Mother’s Tankstation). Art Los Angeles Contemporary director Tim Fleming sat next to Mesler, not far from ltd gallery proprietor Shirley Morales, who started a series of toasts celebrating everyone at the table: “To Tim’s fair, to Joel’s booth!” Each of us raised our glass in turn, till someone called out (nodding to the name of Morales’s gallery), “To Living the Dream.”

“To Living the Dream!” a chorus called back. Eyes met and glasses clinked one last time as we downed our cocktails in homage.

Left: Artist Julian Hoeber. Right: Neil Patrick Harris. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan/WireImage)

Left: Artist Brian Kennon. (Photo: Andrew Berardini) Right: Artist Brendan Fowler performing at Untitled. (Photo: John Sciulli/WireImage)

Left: Human Resources's Eric Kim with Art2102's Ronnie Kim. Right: Night Gallery's Davida Nemeroff. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)

Left: Collector Mark Sandelson with dealer Claudia Altman-Siegal. Right: Artist Lisa Anne Auerbach. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)