Call it Manifest Destiny, and add two more names to the growing list of New York art-world transplants to Los Angeles. First came former Whitney curator Shamim Momin, who launched her L.A. nonprofit LAND a few years ago, then dealer Jeffrey Deitch, who seized the directorship of L.A. MOCA last year. Now longtime New York gallerist and secondary market dealer Perry Rubenstein and his wife, arts PR maven Sara Fitzmaurice, are picking up and moving to tinseltown.
"Los Angeles is not a sideshow anymore," Rubenstein says of his decision to make a wholesale move to the city, which is home not only to Hollywood but also to a group of major art collectors including David Geffen, Eli Broad, Michael Ovitz, and Steve Martin.
While he is not yet prepared to reveal its exact location or opening date, Rubenstein says he has secured a 7,500-square-foot space in "an exciting neighborhood" of the city that he plans to open this fall, bringing most of his artist stable with him. (It currently includes such names as Amir Zaki, Richard Woods, and Kamrooz Aram.) The dealer says he will work diligently to find New York representation for his artists in advance of his relocation. He is also, he says, bringing with him a significant portion of his current staff, and will expand his roster on the West Coast while also doing exhibitions of artists working in previous eras.
"There is greater need in Los Angeles to do historical exhibitions," says the dealer. "And given that it is a significant part of my history it would be remiss of me not to do that."
Rubenstein opened his current New York gallery on 23rd Street in the Chelsea art district in fall, 2004. Before that, he had worked in Chelsea as a private secondary market dealer. In the early 1990s, he had a gallery in SoHo.
The Los Angeles move has been in the works for a while. "I've been doing a tremendous amount of business on the West Coast in the last few years," he says, "with much more diverse collector base and in the context of a burgeoning artistic community."
Two years ago Rubenstein did a temporary exhibition, open by appointment, at the legendary L.A. hotel Chateau Marmont, and has recently landed several significant commissions for his artists in the city, including a piece by Richard Woods for the Los Feliz home of Jeffrey Deitch.
Rubenstein feels confident that Los Angeles represents a great opportunity for a gallery now. His optimism is shared by other dealers: high-profile Upper East Side gallery L&M Arts launched an L.A. branch last September, Chelsea's Matthew Marks plans to soon open up shop in West Hollywood, and OHWOW gallery just unveiled its new space there over the weekend. Past efforts haven't all been rosy, however: the 1990s brought a wave of satellite spaces galleries, including New York's Blum Helman, Luhring Augustine, PaceWildenstein, and Gagosian, and Berlin's Max Hetzler; of these only Gagosian has retained a space in Los Angeles, and it has become a thriving one — a Richard Meier-designed gallery that expanded to double its former size last spring.
Rubenstein's wife, Sara Fitzmaurice, runs the well-known art public relations firm Fitz & Co., which handles such prominent clients as Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach, and will relocate with Rubenstein to open an L.A. branch of her company. Fitzmaurice already works with several clients out west, including MOCA (she worked on the museum's gala events in 2009 and 2010) and the Aspen Art Museum.
"The L.A. office will complement the work we do in New York," says Fitzmaurice, whose longtime employees Dan Tanzilli and Nicole Polletta will continue to man the Manhattan office. Her decision stemmed, in part, from a number of cross-country trips she had been making recently. "I had already been thinking of this independent of Perry's decision," she says. "We have a growing client roster on the West Coast, and while L.A. is a hub, I see that extending to Aspen and Texas."
Rubenstein has not yet specified when in the fall he will launch his new venture, but the timing is auspicious. September marks the Getty Museum's launch of "Pacific Standard Time," an ambitious multi-venue exhibition devoted to the history of California art, as well as a new art fair for the city, Art Platform - Los Angeles, being put on by Merchandise Mart, the company that owns the Armory Show, Art Chicago, and other art fairs.
"I'm bringing to Los Angeles the perspective of someone who has lived and worked his entire life on the Atlantic seaboard," says Rubenstein. "Los Angeles is a new center. It looks today the way New York looked compared to Paris after the war."