Hangar Ons

Los Angeles

Left: Art LA director Tim Fleming with David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris. (Photo: Getty Images) Right: Andrew Taylor with Rachel Griffiths. (Photos: Andreas Branch/Patrick McMullan)

THE ART-FAIR “SNEAK-PEEK” undoubtedly carries a certain attraction—attempts at backstage access are the subject of a whole body of fair lore. But when I was invited to an early view of Art LA’s installation last Wednesday—twenty-eight hours prior to the third edition of the fair’s opening gala (benefiting MoCA)—my instinct was to delay gratification. If you’re not shopping, what’s the point? By the time Thursday’s preview rolled around, there were plenty of polished displays to browse at the Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar, a new venue that seemed an obvious improvement over last year’s stiff civic-auditorium setting. As a handful of galleries put the finishing touches on their booths, an intimate crowd of collectors, artists, curators, and reporters began trickling into the fair, which again played host to nearly sixty galleries comprising both locals and out-of-towners. Some noted the significant drop in New York and London participants (Gavin Brown, Anton Kern, Andrew Kreps, Salon 94, Hotel, and Wallspace were among those that didn’t make the trek out this year), though Berlin galleries seemed to be keeping up their presence, and a few stalwart additions from Mexico City were a welcome sight. “There’s a real sense of camaraderie among the LA galleries,” said Art LA director Tim Fleming. “We’ve really built up anticipation to buy on opening night.”

I wasn’t fully sold on the anticipation part, though excitement did seem to follow the handful of celebrities who showed up, such as David Alan Grier, Ty Pennington, Rachel Griffiths, Albert Brooks, Jeff Garlin, Brittany Snow, and John Hensley—admittedly, I didn’t know who the last two were. In front of two arcane Francesca Gabbiani works on paper at Patrick Painter, Neil Patrick Harris hinted to his partner, David Burtka, “Your sister would love that!” Although most stands were offering a similar sampling of safe and lucrative art, a few of the larger or more experimental galleries took chances on less-object-based works. Two worthy examples were videos by Los Angeles–based artist Vishal Jugdeo at LAXART and, at Blum & Poe, Hirsch Perlman, who presented the simple 1994 piece Shoving, a looped projection of two men perpetually pushing each other that remains surprisingly captivating, even fifteen years later.

Left: Dealer David Kordansky with director Natasha Garcia-Lomas. Right: Daniel Hug, director of Art Cologne, with dealers Joel Mesler and Marc Foxx. (Except where noted, all photos: Brian Bress)

Around 9 PM, the benefit gala opened to lower-ring ticket holders; judging from the crowds, MoCA raised some substantial funds. But as the complementary (and absurdly large) bottles of Grolsch beer and honey- and skim-milk-infused vodka cocktails became increasingly difficult to order from the in-hangar re-creation of Chinatown’s beloved Mountain Bar, I thought it best to get a head start on the official afterparty at Royal/T. At the Culver City “maid cafe,” artist Dave Muller and writer Andrew Berardini spun vinyl oddities from their respective record collections while waitresses dressed as maids served miniature cupcakes. Collector and Royal/T owner Susan Hancock mingled with the crowd of Angelenos (artists Erika Vogt and Eve Fowler, ForYourArt’s Bettina Korek, dealer Lizabeth Oliveri) while proudly describing her collection of Japanese pop.

I cut myself off at two ginger soju cocktails in order to make it over to the “unofficial” afterparty, which artist Samantha Magowan had organized at the new, speakeasy-like Hollywood bar H.Wood. “There are always so many parties at Miami Basel,” said Magowan. “Why should they have all the fun?” Although the partygoers—artists T. Kelly Mason and Taft Green, as well as a handsome clique of postpunk Hollywood club kids and publicists—seemed to have energy to spare, I checked out just before last call to save fuel for the following night’s concert at Largo. Buying out the house at the vaudevillian theater, Art LA had arranged a special performance by local favorite Jon Brion (with a guest appearance by Margaret Cho), whose music might best be described as a prog-rock-inflected mix of Thelonious Monk, Roy Orbison, and Wilco. Needless to say, this year’s opening ceremonies were the most eclectic on record.

Left: Dealer David Quadrini with Whitney curator Shamim Momin. Right: Artist Ed Moses.

Saturday morning’s winter rain put a damper on things when a deluge on the east side of town impeded my route to Edgar Arceneaux’s tour of his Watts House project. I reluctantly rerouted toward the Santa Monica fairgrounds, arriving just in time for a reading by Richard Hertz from his new book The Beat and the Buzz: Inside the L.A. Art World. Placing himself in the vein of Giorgio Vasari and Calvin Tompkins, Hertz read quotes from his subjects—Emi Fontana, Javier Peres, the late David Askevold, Dagny Corcoran, and Skip Arnold among them—pausing frequently to remind the audience, “This is supposed to be funny, folks.”

Embracing the uncanny gestalt of my own trip inside the LA art world, I set off for yet another stop on the Art LA circuit, the private residence of Eugenio López. Though López himself was out of town, the Colección Jumex founder had opened his Beverly Hills bachelor pad for a VIP collection tour. Although the midcentury home was undergoing construction (López was building a cabana in the backyard), the space was clean, bright, and comfortable, a perfect backdrop for his elegant domestic assortment of Judds, Warhols, Lawlers, Basquiats, Twomblys, Ruschas, Koons, Hirsts, Gobers, and, interestingly enough, pre-Columbian artifacts. “Is that Steve Rubell?” one onlooker queried, gazing at a Vik Muniz chocolate portrait. Wrong collection, I thought. The art and the surroundings seemed hazily familiar––was it simply déjà vu? Then it came back to me: I had attended a birthday party there for John Baldessari a few years back. (The in-progress cabana must have thrown me off.) And in fond tribute to that palmy June afternoon, I kicked back and enjoyed a mai tai by the pool.

Left: Getty Research Institute curator Louis Marchesano and artist Lisa Anne Auerbach. Right: Writer Richard Hertz.

Left: Dealer Honor Fraser with Olivier Babin. Right: Artist and 2nd Cannons founder Brian Kennon.

Left: Dealer Lizabeth Olivera with Sarah Waltzer. Right: Artist Doug Aitken.

Left: Artists Christopher Wilde and Ephraim Puusemp. Right: Heather with artist Leigh Ledare.

Left: David Alan Grier. (Photo: Andreas Branch/Patrick McMullan) Right: Dealer Parker Jones with Skylar Haskard.

Left: Artists Jesse Willenbring and Justin Beal. Right: LAXART director Lauri Firstenberg.

Left: Artist Drew Heitzler. Right: Artist Samantha Magowan.

Left: Artist Shana Lutker. Right: ForYourArt's Bettina Korek.

Left: Dealer Erica Redling. Right: Collector Robert Shimschak and Michael Kohn director Samantha Glaser.

Left: Ooga Booga's Wendy Yao. Right: Artist Brendan Fowler.