The New Palm Springs Art Fair Premieres to Curious Crowds and Early Sales

The Palm Springs Fine Art Fair
(Photo by Lani Garfield)

A large crowd, early sales, and a well-timed appearance by Judy Chicago propelled the opening preview party at the inaugural Palm Springs Fine Art Fair on Thursday night at the Palm Springs Convention Center. More than 1,500 enthusiasts and collectors came through to see this California desert resort town’s first fair in nearly a decade, exploring 50 exhibiting galleries from around the country. “We’re very pleased to see so many sophisticated, knowledgeable collectors in Palm Springs,” fair director Rick Friedman told ARTINFO. “This is a beautiful place and a beautiful show with museum-quality art in every direction.”

Chicago, omnipresent in Los Angeles on account of several exhibitions and gallery shows in the sprawling Pacific Standard Time, is the subject of a 100-foot-long, in-fair career survey, "Judy Chicago, Material Girl," curated by David Richard Contemporary of Santa Fe, New Mexico. On opening night — a benefit for Palm Springs Art Museum — Chicago accepted the fair’s lifetime achievement award and entertained a standing-room-only crowd in conversation with curator Peter Frank.

Frank also organized an in-fair, Pacific Standard Time-sanctioned exhibition called "The Big Picture: Paintings From Southern California, 1960-1980," celebrating the artists who contributed to the birth and rise of the L.A. art scene.

Meanwhile, collectors wasted no time on the show floor. Several galleries reported sales within the first hour of the fair's opening. Throckmorton Fine Art of New York had an especially strong night, selling a 1970 Slim Aarons “poolside gossip” C-print photographed at the iconic Richard Neutra-designed Kaufmann House in Palm Springs. The gallery also sold two Nickolas Muray photographs of Frida Kahlo and several works of Pre-Columbian, African, and Asian art. Likewise, in the first hour, Richard Levy Gallery of Albuquerque sold a 2012 stripe painting by William Betts.

One of the most popular pieces was the flashy Devorah Sperber piece at Bentley Gallery of Scottsdale, Arizona. Her "After the Mona Lisa 2" (2005) — composed of 5,184 spools of thread hanging on a stainless steel chain, which come together to look like the Mona Lisa when viewed through a curious acrylic sphere — drew clusters of visitors.

Other highlights of the fair include classic Op Art paintings by Julian Stanczak and shaped canvases by Charles Hinman at David Richard Contemporary; Tim Bavington paintings at Scott Richards Contemporary Art of San Francisco; Milton Avery paintings at Yares Art Projects of Santa Fe; two oil paintings on paper by Yigal Ozeri and photograph by Stefanie Schneider at Scott White Contemporary of San Diego; Jim Dine canvases at L.A.’s Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art; new Ricardo Mazal paintings at Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery of San Francisco; three Richard Misrach photographs (and a jaw-dropping array of other black-and-white prints) at Etherton Gallery of Tucson; Lita Albuquerque’s pigment panels at Peter Blake Gallery of Laguna Beach; the cast glass figures by Nicolas Africano at Jenkins Johnson Gallery of San Francisco; a 1967 Ed Ruscha painting at Heather James Fine Art of Palm Desert; a Marc Sijan resin and oil piece at Gerald Peters Gallery of New York and Santa Fe; a 1982 Charles Arnoldi branch painting at Imago Galleries of Palm Desert; Richard Roblin paintings at Madison Gallery of La Jolla, Calif.; and Palm Springs artist Robert Dunahay’s new palm tree paintings at Christian Hohmann Fine Art of Palm Desert and Skidmore Contemporary Art of Santa Monica.

David Floria Gallery of Aspen dedicated its booth to sculptor James Surls, while Robert Green Fine Arts of Mill Valley, California, filled its space with a solo show of Paul Jenkins paintings. L.A.’s Thomas Paul Fine Art exhibited Chicano art from the collection of actor Cheech Marin, tapping into the fair’s other person of the hour, besides Judy Chicago — Marin is Palm Springs Fine Art Fair's "Art Patron of the Year," and will also headline a moderated conversation, which is sure to draw crowds as well.

The Palm Springs Fine Art Fair continues through Feb. 19. 

To see some of the action on the opening night of the fair, click on the slide show.