Keepers of the Fame

Lloyd Wise around Art Los Angeles Contemporary

Los Angeles

Left: Calvin Klein creative director Francisco Costa with Penelope Cruz. (Photo: Andreas Branch/Patrick McMullan) Right: Artist Ruby Neri, dealer David Kordansky, and artist Kathryn Andrews.

LOOMING OVER SANTA MONICA BOULEVARD like a slab of radioactive ice, the Pacific Design Center—with its ambient elevator music, dropped ceilings, and corporate-kitsch design—is a bewildering environment for displaying art. The complex principally houses high-end home-furnishings vendors, but with many tenants sucked down the housing-market drain, the (presumably affordable) vacant real estate hosted Art Los Angeles Contemporary last weekend. (One darkened showroom was locked and filled, conspicuously, with rolled-up rugs.) Fifty-five galleries, more than half from Los Angeles but several from Europe, tried to make the best of the weirdly gleaming bazaar. Exhibiting dealer Gavin Brown called it a “recession art fair.” We’ve tried piers, tents, hotels, and convention centers—why not this?

While I never imagined I’d see a Picabia for sale in a shopping mall (as I did at Patrick Painter), the Thursday-night preview proved pleasant enough. People were relaxed, at ease—maybe a little bored. Although the initially sparse and mostly local crowd—“old California collectors,” by most accounts—got busier (and, to the annoyance of most dealers, drunker) as the night progressed, nobody was buying much, but nobody expected anyone to. The scene at 1301PE was as congenial as a backyard barbecue: Artist Mungo Thompson, his month-old son Emit strapped to his chest in a Baby Björn, made small talk among friends near diagrammatic crayon drawings by his wife, Kerry Tribe. At David Kordansky’s booth, the dealer had another drink and pontificated about the language of criticism. “I’m waiting for something completely new,” he said. Some pieces gained traction from the setting—Gustavo Artigas’s invitation to vote for the demolition of a local building (at LAXART), for example, or Matias Faldbakken’s crinkled and taped abstractions (at Standard (Oslo)) felt fitting amid the expanse of teal carpet.

Left: Artist Mungo Thompson, Emit, and artist Kerry Tribe. Right: LAND cofounder Shamim Momin. (Photo: Alex Scrimgeour)

Art Los Angeles Contemporary is a new fair directed by Tim Fleming, who defected from Michael Cohen’s five-year-old—now “resting”—Art LA. Some gallery higher-ups hoped the fair’s novelty would generate a positive buzz (that would, presumably, expand beyond buzz into sales), but many others didn’t quite get the point. By the vernissage’s end, Art LA Contemporary’s unique angle, its hook for the global art-fair circuit, still seemed unclear.

At around 9 PM, however, a raison d’être of sorts began surfacing across the street at a reception for the Calvin Klein Collection and Shamim Momin’s Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND), a classy if over-the-top affair that promised, and delivered, fame: As Penelope Cruz and Kate Bosworth (and Neville Wakefield) walked a red carpet to the glare of paparazzi flash, one glimpsed—at least for a moment—the worlds of celebrity, fashion, and art intersecting with smooth, choreographed precision. Marx Foxx’s Rodney Hill pointed out Bosworth by the bar. I spoke with dealer Mihai Nicodim about Cluj. Trash cans overflowed with empty bottles of Veuve Clicquot, and the festivities continued on the venue’s Astroturf-covered rooftop parking lot, where women in ball gowns waited in Porta-Potty lines. Under the clear sky, I chatted with LAXART director Lauri Firstenberg, artists Kamrooz Aram and Mark Verabioff, and the New Museum’s Benjamin Godsill, while marveling at the luster in the cool desert night.

Left: Artist Jennifer West and dealer Marc Foxx. Right: A view of Anthony Pearson's house.

The following evening, after a day at Hollywood galleries and a restaging of works at the old Ferus gallery space (the crowded room saw Anjelica Huston; curator Paul Schimmel; and artists Larry Bell, Ed Moses, and a bronzed Llyn Foulkes out for the occasion) the evening’s parties began—and ended—in houses designed by Austrian modernist Rudolph Schindler. The first at the architect’s sleek, diminutive, and newly renovated 1936 Leland-Fitzpatrick house, where José León Cerrillo staged a “situation” to “activate the space” (a staid cocktail party). Eighth Veil’s Kane Austin and Nicole Katz and artist Stanya Kahn were there. Artist Piero Golia told me about his problems with Le Corbusier—“so I have a real problem with Schindler,” he went on, his drink threatening the pristine carpet as it teetered in his cup. The final party of the night took place at the architect’s much larger 1934 Buck House for Country Club Projects, where a performance by Gabriel Loebell—for which the guests were corralled outside to watch a bathrobe-clad man read J. D. Salinger through the window—had already ended and wine was freely spilled.

In the interim, I attended a small gathering at artist Anthony Pearson’s home (designed by Escher GuneWardena Architects, the firm responsible for Blum & Poe’s gargantuan new space), bringing a moment of calm. Located on a nondescript suburban street, the house’s unassuming postwar-bungalow facade belies the dramatic interior—a gradually expanding space that terminates in a vast open aperture roughly the scale and proportions of a cinema screen. The iridescent Los Angeles grid appeared like an image, while guests (dealers Eivind Furnesvik and Lisa Cooley and writer Kate Wolf, among others) talked quietly in the dark, mesmerizing room.

Left: Artist Kamrooz Aram and LAXART director Laurie Firstenberg. Right: Anjelica Huston and artist Ed Moses. (Photo: Franklin Parrasch Gallery)

Back at the Pacific Design Center the next afternoon, X-TRA’s “1 IMAGE 1 MINUTE” event drew a dense, lively crowd to watch some fifty critics, curators, and artists each discuss an image of their choosing for sixty seconds. Approaches were all over the map, with one eloquent and devastating entry by artist Kianga Ford—in which she talked about discovering a news image of the earthquake that depicted her dead cousin—casting a pall over the others, even Orange County Museum of Art deputy director Karen Moss’s brilliant rhyming-and-snapping exposition of a Martin Kersels photograph.

That evening I managed to miss both the Hammer’s Rachel Whiteread opening and gallerist-collector Shirley Morales’s house party honoring curator Franklin Sirmans’s LACMA appointment. But I did run into Morales later at Dinner House M, where a late-night/early-morning party for Klosterfelde and Redling Fine Art had packed the seedy after-hours disco. She was joined by artists Johan Grimonprez and Aaron GM, as well as Kalup Linzy, who had performed one of his popular drag-in-dishabille numbers at her fete. Among the wispy guests lounging on black leather couches, I saw artists Walead Beshty and Leigh Ledare, and the ubiquitous Momin (in a reflective dress) framed by the walls of ivy, mirror, and stone veneer. A few times the venue’s eccentric, spiky-haired hostess cut the audio and instructed everyone to leave, but that was surely just a ruse to clear out the room, as the music kept starting up again.

Left: Artists Stanya Kahn and Marc Horowitz. Right: The hostess at Dinner House M.

Left: A man in a gorilla suit. Right: Marc Foxx's Rodney Hill.

Left: Artist Piero Golia. Right: A scene at an LA party.

Left: Peres Projects's Sarah Walzer. Right: The Eighth Veil's Nicole Katz and Kane Austin.

Left: 1301PE's Isha Welsh and Mieke Marple. Right: Dealer Kate Werble.

Left: Otero Plassart Gallery's Martha Otero. Right: Photographer Ramona Trent and artist Anthony Pearson.