(c) Doug Aitken “Midnight Sun (distant view with pools)” 2019 Chromogenic transparency on acrylic in aluminum lightbox with LEDs 68 x 125 by 7 inches Edition of four Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

So Much Art!

What a whirlwind week it was for contemporary art all across Los Angeles. There were at least 4 different art fairs that took place, two of which I attended. Art LA Contemporary celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. And the prestigious and stunningly presented international Frieze Art Fair made its very impressive debut at Paramount Studios. All I can say is WOW.


Art LA Contemporary (ALAC), focuses on established and emerging galleries, boasted 100 exhibitors from 19 countries, 15,000 international visitors and record-setting sales, with multiple galleries reporting more than $100,000. Kathryn Grayson of The Hole said she sold three works in the first few minutes of the show.

San Francisco-based Ever Gold Projects sold over 20 works during the opening night, including a marble sculpture by a notable LA-based female artist Petra Cortright that raked in $80,000 from a Bay Area tech collector who used cryptocurrency!

The one work that stole my heart, listed at $75,000, was Lita Albuquerque’s “The Lights Inside It,” made of 24 Karat gold leaf on resin with pigment on panel, a highlight of more than $100,000 in sales reported by Peter Blake Gallery in Laguna Beach.

This gorgeous, enormous meditative piece truly looks like it is lit from within. A hauntingly beautiful blue background that morphs, Rothko-like, from darker to lighter tones, surrounds a glowing golden orb that creates a pulsating effect against the background. I envy the buyer. Please invite me over so I can see it again. Sigh.

I also discovered a Los Angeles-based workshop, well known to artists but not to me, called Mixografia. They’ve invented several unique techniques for printmaking in three dimensions, allowing for elements of relief, texture and fine surface detail. Invented and patented by Luis and Shaye Remba, all their print and paper making equipment is built in-house.

On the walls, they displayed a multi-colored dazzler by Jacob Hashimoto, called Tiny Rooms and Tender Promises, that reminded me of many-patterned tiny cocktail umbrellas, with push pins and threads connecting them. And Analia Saban made a ghostly looking Three Stripe Hand Towel with Unsewn Label on handmade paper, and it looks exactly as described.

How to describe an abstract work: Jorunn Hancke Ogstad created a piece shown by Oslo-based Gallery VI,VII that I returned to no less than three times. In a gentle teal and aqua-washed colored background, she constructs elements that seem familiar: a square with green and white stripes, a pair of unmatched chromosome shaped strands, white spaces, lines, curves…an overall sense of peace in this work, to my eyes.

And one more artist of note, new to me, Robyn O’Neil is Omaha-born and now LA-based, but was represented here by Western Exhibitions in Chicago. Her drawings feature small figures against vast panoramas. In “Low American Grace,” she has deconstructed some of the figures (bull and horse) from Picasso’s famous “Guernica” and positioned them in the sky of an imaginary landscape that looked primeval. It just jumped off the wall at me.


One of the most prestigious art fairs in the world, in the same tier as Basel Art Fair, this was the first year for Frieze in Los Angeles and it was a smashing success.

The outdoor commissioned projects included a giant inflatable ketchup bottle; an enormous green, snaky creature spilling out a faux building’s windows and into a faux subway entrance; and lines of “laundry” hung between buildings, reminiscent of Brooklyn tenements.

I got into “Tom Pope’s One Square Club,” a one square meter wooden container box, decked out like a private London club, complete with velvet ropes outside, and a wallpapered and mirrored interior, with two small hanging art pieces, a bar, where you’re served a glass of champagne, and 7 minutes of face-to-face conversation with the charming performance artist himself.

Pope calculated that one square meter of London real estate in Kensington (the priciest neighborhood) costs $15,000, and this was his response to that shocking reality. This “private club” is available for $150,000 but the artist must be part of any activities that take place within its tiny walls. Only 3 people can fit in at one time. I was lucky to get a one-on-one with him.

Inside, the galleries—all of which were invited to participate—presented some of the most impressive contemporary art on the planet today. Once again, I was blown away by how remarkable the LA galleries look in the context of the international scene. Blum & Poe, LA Louver, multi-city Gagosian Gallery, Susanne Vielmetter, Hauser and Wirth, Regen Projects all shone.

Some of the outstanding pieces I viewed included an amazing Gordon Parks photograph, “Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956,” featuring a black mother and daughter, dressed in lacy finery, standing under a neon sign, “Colored Entrance,” and looking apprehensively at something across the street from them. Heart-gripping photograph at Jack Shainman Gallery from New York.

Shainman also displayed Topos” by Ghanaian/Nigerian artist El Anatsui, who creates tapestries woven from detritus, such as aluminum pop-tops from soda cans, foil from wine bottles and chewing gum wrappers, thousands of pieces collected from across the continent and connected by tiny wires to create what looks like a wall-sized hanging curtain.

This fair took place, as Hemingway wrote, in a clean well-lighted place and was beautifully and elegantly presented, allowing each gallery to shine without being overwhelmed by the volume of participants. I look forward to its return.

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

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