Called the West Coast’s most comprehensive art experience, the LA Art Show has seen the art scene of the city evolve from being ‘event-centric’ to hosting a very sophisticated collector and artistic community. In the past two decades of its existence, the fair has not just experienced internal growth but also benefitted from the increasingly global character of the city. Ahead of the upcoming edition, the fair’s general manager and partner Kim Martindale answers a few questions for BLOUIN ARTINFO.
How has the art scene in Los Angeles evolved in the past 21 years of the fair’s existence? How would you compare it with the art scene of New York?
The art scene in Los Angeles had some remarkable changes in the past 21 years since the founding of the LA Art Show. It was once a city with a very small serious collector base. Now it is home to a very sophisticated collector and artistic community. In the early years of the show – and this is reflective of the culture in Los Angeles 21 years ago – people were more interested in an ‘event’ and less interested in the art. Now it’s a city that is embracing art on a large level.
In the past 21 years, new museums, and galleries have proliferated, and so have the number of dedicated art events. It’s clear that Los Angeles has become an art city. We see it in the number of people who come to the LA Art Show. Last year, we had more than 60,000 attendees. When we first launched, we had a few hundred.
NY is still considered the number one art market in the US, but if the trajectory for Los Angeles continues to move at the rate that it has been, then LA will surpass NY in the near future as the number one destination for art. The art scene here has been growing exponentially in the last five years. You see it in the number and configuration of galleries. Think about how Gagosian Gallery is now opening a second space in the same city. Ace Gallery has two locations. This illustrates how much LA is growing, and how the local community can and does support it. The LA Art Show has grown from 14 galleries to more than 100. Each year, the show has shifted focus a bit to reflect the existing and future art market.
That’s one of the reasons that the LA Art Show has continued to grow.
New York used to be a place where art was made and had a strong creative community. Then, as rents changed, the artist community moved farther out, and New York became a place where art was sold. Los Angeles has always been a creative place. Now, however, it’s quite apparent that not only can art be made here, that there is a very robust creative community; it is also a place where art is sold. We can look at this projection as a transition in growth. Just as Art moved from Paris to NY, it is moving from NY to LA.
LA really is the center of the creative pulse in the United States. NY is still the financial pulse.
When you think about collectors in NY, they tend to come from the Wall St. community. This completely makes sense; that is the industry of NY. Los Angeles is centered around the entertainment industry, which also contributes to the collector community. But it’s more than that in Los Angeles, because as the city has grown, as industry changed and grew, the collector community did as well.
America’s Silicon Valley, with a big population from outside the US, is not very far from LA. Has the buying power of that population affected the art market of the region? And how big is the component of celebrities from the entertainment industry in the collector base?
The Silicon Valley really pushes us farther north to the San Francisco Bay Area, but with the advent of Silicon Beach in LA, it is pulling that international community for a different reason. There seems to be a mass migration to Los Angeles. Silicon Valley is actually moving to LA too, ergo the development of Silicon Beach. For the Western United States, the art community is likewise moving to LA. It’s not Seattle, Portland or San Francisco. It’s now LA.
The LA Art Show is committed to spotting the now and next trends of art and bringing them to the Los Angeles community. That’s why we are bringing in African contemporary art this year, and launching a four-year exploration into the African contemporary art scene. Last year, we brought in the United Arab Emirates because that community is reflective of the evolution of Los Angeles. There are a large number or UAE citizens migrating to LA either to live permanently or with a second home.
We’ve actively expanded our international art gallery roster. Being on the West Coast, we tend to look to Latin America and Asia. On the East Coast it makes sense to look to Europe.
Celebrities are a very visual component of the LA Art Show, but this is really about the fact that entertainment is a large component of industry here and so they compose a recognizable part of the collector community. The LA Art Show has a fair number of high-profile celebrities who attend, including: James Franco, Amy Adams, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Collins, Barbara Streisand, David Arquette, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry and more. What’s wonderful about it is that they are all truly engaged with the art.
This year we are very excited that Anne Hathaway and Adam Shulman will be the hosts for our Opening Night Premiere Party benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
How have you managed to balance the increasingly global character of the fair with its regional moorings?
We actively engage with international galleries because Los Angeles is a global city. What works here is entirely reflective of the community we live in.
LA is special because many trends and movements that began here have changed the face of art globally. With the LA Art Show, we’re mindful of this too. Our Littletopia section is setting a new trend too. We want to showcase what is coming out of LA.
Think of our resident artists: Ed Ruscha, Ed Moses, John Baldassari, Retna, Mike Kelley, Mear One, Shepard Fairy, etc., Each one of these artists has launched a movement, in very different ways but the one thing that they have in common is that they choose Los Angeles as their base. I think that the city is so full of creativity due to the entertainment industry; it attracts artistic people.
The global culture and character of the LA Art Show is actually reflective of American art. We’re not talking about the US, we’re talking about something that is wholly LA. It is a melting pot. It is a place that is global, so it makes sense that the LA Art Show is reflective of this. The LA experience is an international experience… and so is the LA Art Show.
A lot is new about the fair this time. Could you elaborate?
For 20 years, the LA Art Show as been an encyclopedic show. This was a very strategic decision based upon the fact that collectors’ tastes change and grow over time. Very few people will gravitate towards plein air paintings for their entire life. They’ll have some plein air, some sculpture, some photography, some mixed media, some contemporary or modern. Their tastes will change and grow through time. We wanted the LA Art Show to be a place where collectors could come and find things they love and explore what their next love might be.
The LA Art Show is constantly evolving to reflect the art scene of the city. Each year our focus shifts slightly to be in line with the existing and future market. That’s how the show has grown over the years while others have failed to do so. Now we are moving towards a more contemporary experience that also includes performance art.
Could you talk about the move to separate the historic and traditional contemporary art into The Los Angeles Fine Art Show?
Since the art scene in LA has grown so much, the collector community has as well. In 2016, we are separating the LA Art Show, and creating a new art fair — The Los Angeles Fine Art Show. Both shows will be co-located and take place in tandem, however, the LA Art Show will be curated to showcase Modern & Contemporary Galleries and the Los Angeles Fine Art Show will include historic and traditional works.
This separation creates a more honed curatorial/ collector experience, but still maintains the encyclopedic experience because visitors can still see both shows at the same time, in the same location, on the same day.
The Los Angeles Fine Art Show is the only one dedicated to this particular type of art in the world. We’re a genre specific show, not a timeframe specific one.
When you think about the things that remain constant in art in terms of theme, portraiture will always be popular, as will be landscape or traditional still life. These type of artworks continue to post strong sales in international auctions, and in fact the largest portion of sales tend to be allocated to ‘traditional’ type works.
There is a group of contemporary artists who work in this genre. We are providing a platform for them, in addition to the historic works/ galleries. The Los Angeles Fine Art Show provides a dedicated experience for collectors who appreciate this genre, but at the same time, they can visit the LA Art Show and see contemporary and modern works.
If someone had only a day to visit the fair, what would you suggest them to do at the upcoming LA Art Show?
The LA Art Show and the Los Angeles Fine Art Show are both great art experiences on their own, but provide a full perspective when combined. In going to both, you can see a progression in art: the works of earlier artists who inspired their contemporary counterparts, and how things evolved through time.
I’d recommend going to the website first and looking at the programming for each day. We have some of the best art coming from South America, Asia, Africa and Europe and on the historic side, top painters that work in that style plus California impressionists, plein air, Hudson school artists and more. In visiting both, you get an idea of what is happening in the art world today globally.
Our participating galleries are bringing some of the top artists in the world and our programming reflects this. We also have performance art happening every day.
We have a robust lecture schedule from Thursday January 28th - Sunday, January 31st. We have some really inspiring programming including lectures with the artist Lluis Barba, and Yoon Jin Sup, who is curating the “Dansaekhwa II” exhibition. Then I’d go to the show and I’d check out the special exhibitions. We have some amazing exhibitions that look at what is happening in African Contemporary Art, Latin American Art, Asian Contemporary and have some of the top artists in each category, including Lluis Barba, who will be unveiling a new work at the show; Mari Kim, Hiroshi Mori, Issai Tanaka, Mizuho Koyama, Ryuma Imai, Tamie Okuyama. Mostapha Romili, Ingrid Mwangi Robert Hutter and others.
We also have exhibitions of some of the top street artists including: Mear One, who will be speaking about his new piece, “Revolution.” And, we have some amazing installations by Jana Cruder and Catherine Coan… and a sculpture garden. We are really excited to have Jeff Gillette, an artist who collaborated with Banksy to create Dismaland, showcase a new piece based upon his Dismaland concept as the entry way to our Littletopia section.
If you come on Thursday, we’ll be presenting a lifetime achievement award to the artist Robert Williams – one of the founders of the pop surrealist art movement that sprang out of Los Angeles. After seeing what’s happening with the special exhibitions, I would then suggest checking out each gallery. There are more than 130 galleries in both shows, representing more than 20 countries. Each gallery is exceptional. Then take a break, grab a bite and go back after you’ve had time to think the piece you need to have.
The LA Art Show takes place Jan 27- 31 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 South Figueroa Street, West Hall A. For details, visit www.laartshow.com