“All eyes are on Los Angeles right now.” We’ve heard this murmured among the city’s art institutions recently, and you can thank the debut of Frieze Los Angeles for that. But we’re not sure we’d really say all eyes: The art fair, which is known for its New York and London incarnations, is still very much an art world-centric showcase. Held this weekend at Paramount Studios, it’s the kind of event that buzzes into existence with headlines about the international art world “going Hollywood” (rather than L.A. showcasing itself to the world) and opens with a press release about the millions of dollars worth of works that’ve been sold already—and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it close with the announcement of return dates for next year.
But should the average Angeleno care about an art fair like Frieze? That partially depends if you can even get a ticket, as Frieze is mostly sold out for the weekend. As of publishing, only $20 tickets for the backlot area—and not the massive gallery—are available for Sunday. But we’d gladly recommended a backlot-only ticket; it’s fun, and easily the most enjoyable part of Frieze for most Angelenos.
The backlot is 29Rooms for art-conscious adults, with a bit of the Taste thrown in (Sqirl, Roberta’s, Coni’Seafood and a back-from-the-dead Baroo all have pop-up eateries, and there’s a lot of booze). The 14 installations on display there are nearly all immersive or photogenic, and they’re surrounded by brand activations, bars and bookstores seamlessly integrated into the faux New York city blocks. It’s a surreal, only-in-L.A. scene, one where a gin brand can set up a recreation of iconic Manhattan club and avant-garde hangout Max’s Kansas City within the facades of a New York backlot plopped in the center of Hollywood.
But it’s also the setting for some pretty compelling artwork. Hannah Greely’s High and Dry strings clouds and clothes across lines of laundry, while Lisa Anne Auerbach’s Psychic Art Advisor is a full-blown psychic studio, with bookable reservations for tarot card reader Alpine Moon.
The clear standout, though, is Sarah Cain’s I touched a cactus flower. The L.A. artist has splashed sherbet-colored life into the blank interior of a brownstone facade through canvases and a painted couch. At the center of the bay windows, you’ll spot a beautiful stained glass panel that we can assume will look particularly dazzling if the sun ever comes out again in L.A.
Around the corner, the cavernous indoor gallery space more closely resembles L.A.’s other art fairs (of which there are four others this week), albeit a bit roomier and better curated. L.A. is well-represented among the nearly 70 galleries inside—at least as far as gallery names, less so for representing up-and-coming L.A. artists. This is still, after all, an art world dominated by New York dealers and international galleries. For the fair’s opening days at least, it’s the kind of place meant primarily for business, where gallery representatives try to persuade prospective buyers to the negotiating table. You’ll find plenty of works from recognizable contemporary artists scattered throughout, like Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Doug Aitken, Olafur Eliasson and Mike Kelley, whose oddly unsettling idealized childhood bedroom, Unisex Love Nest, makes its L.A. debut.
Frieze Los Angeles is open at Paramount Studios on Saturday from noon to 7pm and Sunday from noon to 6pm, with programming scattered throughout the day, along with some off-site collaborations.