35,000 visitors witnessed the fourth edition of Frieze Los Angeles last Thursday through Sunday, including Roxane Gay and Tyler the Creator. This year, the London-born fair ditched their fan favorite venue at Paramount Studios for the far-flung Santa Monica Airport, where private planes climbed overhead — offering easy access for high profile collectors arriving in town to see the full 120 galleries from 22 countries across two halls in this largest edition of Frieze Los Angeles yet.
Vittoria Benzine attended her first-ever Frieze art fair at the Shed in New York City last May. Last week marked her second Frieze, and her first visit to the L.A. event. As she sat on a bench at the Barker Hangar wondering what traits unite the Frieze fairs across geographies, one passerby remarked that the fair’s narrative centers on welcoming new collectors to the market.
12 outdoor-scale sculptures by 11 international artists bridged the stretch between the Barker Hangar and the westward tent, designed by Kulapat Yantrasast’s local outfit WHY studio — the two venues hosting Frieze exhibitors. The Barker Hangar greeted visitors upon arriving, and hosted the event’s Focus section geared towards young artists, while the official tent offered the most expansive showrooms. Artists like Emma Stern said the show in sum seemed “strong,” and meant it. Vittoria took a look of her own and pulled five selections for your consideration.
L.A. Louver — Los Angeles, CA
L.A. Louver devoted their corner spot at the Hangar to a duo presentation by American artists Edward and Nancy Kienholz called “American Exceptionalism.” Through striking sculptures spanning half a century, the presentation asks what it is that exactly makes America so exceptional. It’s an exceptional question to get a certain kind of person to see the egg on their own face, yet still comes with paradoxes baked in — America, home to tensions and atrocities alluded to here, but also America, which gave rise and played home to these very gems of the art historical canon.
For all its shock value, spectacle, and profound talking points, one moment really made this booth for me — when I looked up at just the right angle to find that statue staring right at me.
Richard Saltoun — London, U.K.
Bright colors had the upper hand at Frieze, especially in the slightly younger feeling Hangar. Maybe that’s a matter of contemporary art’s current favored colored palates, but probably also due in part to the ostentatious nature of L.A., blooming hues from its ecosystem up. Richard Saltoun stood apart from the room and proved neutrals can get your blood beating too with their deep dive into the works of late pioneering Polish textile artist Barbara Levittoux-?widerska, which lacked no maximalism with their knotted organic weaves sporting accents like steel wool.
This is apparently the first time Levitoux-?widerska’s work has gone on view in California since 1977. The gallery sold more than ten works, each priced between $8,000 and $120,000.
Nicola Vassell — New York, NY
Detroit-born and Harlem-based photographer Ming Smith was the first female member to join the famous Kamoinge workshop of Black photographers, first launched in the 1960s in New York City. Smith has spent her existence at culture’s core, and has captured numerous critical personalities uptown including Nina Simone and Alice Coltrane under her lens, predominantly in black and white, as a method of “celebrating the struggle, the survival and to find grace in it” her bio says. Smith’s work inaugurated Nicola Vassel’s Chelsea location — and now, the gallery’s Frieze debut.
“We placed several Ming Smith photographs, including with an important local institution,” Vassell has said of their first fair experience. “Our sales were robust, and the quality of our conversations were what we hoped.”
Sadie Coles — London, U.K.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Everyone goes to an art fair at least a little for the spectacle, right? Certain galleries specialize in spectacles, though some shift in and out of the game with each successive art fair. Sadie Coles shows up time and again though to present breathtaking, experimental art that’s entertaining as much as visually engaging. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be a proper art fair without seeing such a booth, particularly theirs, this time with a massive shimmering painting by Jonathan Lyndon Chase, provocative sculptures by Jordan Wolfson and Urs Fischer, and this cartoon, tactile neoprene lampshade by Alex Da Corte — and more.
David Kordansky — Los Angeles, CA & New York, NY
Nonetheless, there’s a growing trend favoring fair booths that focus on one artist. Of course an art fair is a commercial event, but gallerists’ jobs are always getting harder — it’s not enough to just lay out the thoughtfully curated merchandise in an alluring fashion, it’s even more effective if it’s arranged with the impression it’s there to be studied rather than just bought. But no matter which side you stand in that complicated debate, the striking works of Chase Hall, especially on view in a solo presentation with David Kordansky at Frieze, remain undisputed.
The Minnesota-born, self-taught painter must have caught a comet by the tail. Last year Vogue featured him, and this year at Frieze, his works of acrylic paint and brewed coffee at David Kordansky’s booth sold out within hours of the fair opening. Hall devised this body of work just for the show, focusing on the adolescent part of his life where he moved from the midwest to Los Angeles, calling out to Bruce’s Beach for instance with one piece, a Black historical phenomenon with a Santa Monica story which the For Freedoms referenced in a performance the fair’s opening day. It is still Black History Month. Throughout the series, Hall’s works balanced bold color with a more gentle visual imprint – maybe in homage to his biracial upbringing.
“On the eve of Hall’s first solo museum exhibition opening February 28 at the SCAD Art Museum in Georgia, we’re excited to be sharing his work with visitors who have come to L.A. from all over the world for the fair,”gallery director Kurt Mueller