The contemporary art fair capped its three-day official run Sunday at Paramount Pictures Studios, drawing thousands of attendees, generating millions of dollars in sales and helping further hone the city’s growing clout when it comes to its community of artists, however one defines that last point.
“It’s really going to hopefully become a mark on the annual calendar for Los Angeles as an arts destination, which we never really had,” artist Alex Israel said of Frieze. “Hopefully this will continue to reaffirm this growing consensus that Los Angeles is a major international art destination and that the most exciting things happening in the world creatively happen here.”
Star power always helps sell with the likes of Brad Pitt and Sylvester Stallone spotted Thursday. Gwyneth Paltrow breezed through the entrance Sunday afternoon, with Kanye West walking toward the gallery tents later that same day, an assistant filming his trek, complete with cell phone harnessed in a stabilizer.
“Los Angeles is coming into its own, certainly culturally,” said Katherine Ross, a former executive in communications and public relations for companies such as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and founder of the label Re:la, which had a pop-up at Frieze. “There’s just so much here, not just in the art world, but more and more fashion designers thinking that they can actually live and work here, as well as restaurants and writers.”
Even without the celebrity quotient, the VIP preview day on Feb. 14 alone drew roughly 6,000 visitors, with the final number across the four days still being tallied. Attendees flew in from as far as China, France, Israel, Korea, Mexico and the U.K., in addition to domestic visitors from Chicago, New York, Dallas and Washington, D.C. While not all galleries released sales information to fair organizers, millions of dollars’ worth of artwork was reportedly sold, including Hauser & Wirth’s disclosure that Mike Kelley’s “UnisexLove Nest” went for $1.8 million; Levy Gorvy confirmed the sales of Günther Uecker’s “Spirale III,” with an asking price of $1.2 million, and Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Nets (B-A-Y),” which had an asking price of $1.6 million; L.A. Louver said sales of pieces by Gajin Fujita ranged from $40,000 to $250,000, and Gallery Hyundai confirmed sales of reserved pieces in the range of $75,000 to $93,000. That’s a fraction of the revenue generated from the art alone and didn’t include sales from vendors in the backlot, which included clothing, accessories, books and food.
“Part of what we’re so thrilled about is how strong the market has been at the fair,” said Frieze Los Angeles executive director Bettina Korek. “Really, the success of the galleries is so important to what we’re doing. It’s everything. We have this really special mix here and established the fact that an international art fair can succeed in Los Angeles and that it can, like Frieze New York and Frieze London, be a platform for the entire art community and the city.”
Much has changed to certainly help position the greater Los Angeles area for the spotlight.
“I’ve been here for 18 years and it used to always be you’d make the work here and you’d show it in New York, and that was that,” said artist Analia Saban during a panel talk last week with Rosetta Getty at NeueHouse’s Frieze programming. “I remember I had an opening three years ago with my [L.A.] gallery and it was a Tuesday night. All of a sudden we had, like, 650 people and it was kind of the beginning of this. It’s been growing and growing, but that’s when I realized it was here to stay. Everyone added something for that to happen. All the museums. All the curators. The universities…it’s really the result of a collective effort.”
A key point was 2007’s Takashi Murakami exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art that helped kick things off. More recent years brought The Broad in 2015 and Hauser & Wirth in 2016. Maurice and Paul Marciano opened the doors to the Marciano Art Foundation the following year.
“Prior to that,” pointed out NeueHouse chief executive officer Josh Wyatt, “there wasn’t really a scene in L.A. that had a vibrant art scene mixing with the commerce side of things, i.e., transactions getting done. There are branding moments, there are dinners, there are relationships and partnerships and promotions that are happening that never existed in L.A. This is actually a huge week for the city.”
Frieze activities weren’t confined to Paramount Studios. Installations went up in galleries across neighborhoods — from downtown and Studio City — and cities from West Hollywood to Beverly Hills participated. NeueHouse had a “Frieze Week” series of dinners, talks and workshops pulling in artists from across disciplines: fashion, fine art, architecture, music and film.
“It’s interesting the [NeueHouse] shareholders; their reaction to my strategic plan when I came in was to say, ‘OK, well what are we doing around stuff like the Oscars?’” said Wyatt, who was appointed ceo in November. “I said, ‘You know what? We’re way more interested in Frieze.’ And it was, initially, an interesting sort of wake up moment for the people who had been involved in the company and they said, ‘You know, we hadn’t thought of it in this way.’”
It’s a perception most outside of the state have when it relates to the greater Los Angeles area. That is, art is to be distilled down to the red carpet, and the entertainment industry’s influence is certainly one facet that touches everything from fine art to fashion.
“You know the city through the locations in cinema,” Rodarte’s Laura Mulleavy said during a Matchesfashion.com panel on the intersection of fashion and Hollywood that took place on the Paramount backlot.
Los Angeles fashion, in particular, has always been more Hollywood-based than rooted in more traditional definitions of the industry, the designer added, and influences are also rooted in lifestyles such as surf, skate and other references to personal style. The culmination of which has always made the market different from that of, say, New York or Paris. Still, Mulleavy said, “I never thought of L.A. as not being a fashion capital.”
Otis College of Art and Design’s annual report on the creative economy hammers that point: entertainment and digital media companies accounted for two out of every three jobs in the creative sector for Los Angeles County. Fashion came in second.
“Just to be clear, we’re not saying we’re going to ignore the Grammys or other awards shows,” Wyatt said as it relates to NeueHouse programming. “We did the Sony Music Grammys after party….Yes, we will play on that level. The other night we did a huge film premiere for Netflix. So, yes, we support that and we love it. We’ve had a line into the Grammys and Oscars [historically], but from a creative and creation perspective, to me, Frieze is way more intellectually important for the city. So that’s why we went big on it.”
It’s an acknowledgement of the continued diversification of the creative class here where disciplines aren’t siloed. It’s something locals perhaps always knew, but those outside needed a few more signposts to get to that same place in acknowledging and celebrating how democratized the ecosystem locally is for creatives.
In fact, the Otis report explicitly went on to note the challenge in even defining the report’s categories of creatives because of the continued convergence of the disciplines. Frieze with its mix of food, fashion, art, music and the talks and panels taking place in programming is a mirror of that.
“I think art today is like how fashion is today,” said Rimowa chief brand officer Hector Muelas, who was in town to celebrate the reveal of an installation the upscale luggage maker did with Alex Israel. “It used to be such a hermetic world and now it hybridizes everything along the way. Yesterday I went to a dinner that was an art dinner, but it was all fashion people from Paris and music people, so the scene is obviously changing as the audience changes.”
Frieze Los Angeles’ Korek confirmed this year wasn’t just a blip on the calendar to test the West Coast. The art fair, she said, will be an annual event.
“These things have to happen organically,” Israel said. “It seems like L.A. is in a renaissance moment and that it’s just time. It’s a factor of so many things and so many stars aligning. It really seems like this isn’t being forced and it just happened in the best way.”