Invited to provide a table-setter for the L.A. Art Show, a sprawling and mind-bogglingly diverse annual marketplace and smorgasbord for the eyes, Marilyn Lowey delivered an installation that's cheekily site-specific. Titled "Translating Transitions #4," it's possibly the biggest — but most obscure — price tag ever seen.

It occupies 8,000 cubic feet of the cavernous entrance pavilion of the Los Angeles Convention Center's South Hall, through which attendees pass en route to displays from more than 140 exhibitors, including this year a large contingent of galleries from China.


FOR THE RECORD:
L.A. Art Show: In the Jan. 26 Calendar section, an article about the L.A. Art Show gave the name of another show running concurrently last weekend at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica as Art Contemporary Los Angeles. The correct name is Art Los Angeles Contemporary. —

Lowey's piece looks like an arena-rock lighting grid (Lowey has created concert lighting schemes for Neil Diamond and Cyndi Lauper, among others), housing 52 meter-long, frosted-Lucite video display tubes that flicker gradually from white to cool pink to a hotter reddish glow.

PHOTOS: Arts and culture in pictures

Lowey said she laid out the tubes to spell the piece's price in Morse code: "thirty-eight thousand."

"You've got to have a sense of humor in your work," she explained.

Aiming to top last year's announced attendance of more than 50,000, the show, which runs through Sunday, is a pop-up temple to the ever-counterintuitive art trade. In virtually all other business realms, red ink marks a loss. Here, when something is sold, the gallerist celebrates by putting a red dot on its demure white pricing card.

An incomplete eyeballing on Thursday turned up prices ranging from $400 for a small piece that the King Space Gallery of Shanghai was showing in its U.S. debut, to $375,000 for "Jewelled Hills" by Joseph Kleitsch, one of the stars of the early 20th century California Impressionist movement that's a main focus for its seller, George Stern Fine Arts of West Hollywood.

Unlike other art shows that are strictly for contemporary work, just about anything goes at the L.A. Art Show. That differentiates it from Art Contemporary Los Angeles, running through Sunday at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, where it's hoping to top last year's draw of about 10,000, and Art Platform Los Angeles, which announced that it attracted nearly 13,500 visitors to the Barker Hangar for its most recent run in late September.

One wing of the L.A. Art Show houses "historic and traditional" booths, where the floors were carpeted and walls tended to be coated with felt in deep, royal colors.

The modern and contemporary section's booths had bare concrete floors and plain white walls.

There, Shepard Fairey, a star of 21st century political postering and street art, was debuting a series of prints flecked with diamond dust, and a museum-style special themed exhibition, "Letters From Los Angeles: Text in Southern California Art," had been assembled by L.A. gallerist Jack Rutberg. It gathered works featuring words or letters by contemporary luminaries such as Ed Ruscha, Raymond Pettibon, Alexis Smith and John Baldessari.

Rutberg said that besides documenting the importance of the written word to the L.A. art scene, the show aimed to comment on the self-concept of the only major city he can think of that commonly goes by its initials alone.

And then there was the debut of Norman Rockwell's sculptural work.

Well, not precisely. Deborah Murry of L.A.'s Murloge Gallery of Fine Art said she got permission from the widely if not critically beloved illustrator's heirs to create bronze sculptural renderings of scenes he'd painted for magazine covers.

The actual artist is Joey Orosco, who's done special effects sculpting for films, including "Avatar" and "Jurassic Park." Now, for $16,500, one may acquire a three-dimensional, table-top-size avatar of "The Connoisseur," a 1962 cover for the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell placed a balding, middle-aged man in a gray suit in front of a Jackson Pollock drip painting, the artist's way of winking at Everyman's struggle to understand abstract art.

For a not-so-amused but extremely passionate commentary along similar lines, one could buttonhole Steven Diamant, owner of Arcadia Gallery in New York City. Diamant said he's done gangbuster business at the L.A. Art Show for nearly a decade because the precisely drawn, emotionally dramatic and rather glamorous portraiture by living artists that he mainly shows is missing from L.A. galleries, and he's happy to supply what he sees as a considerable unmet demand.