In the eye of the collector
“IS that a Henry Moore?” Lynda Resnick asks, spotting a huge bronze reclining figure in Tasende Gallery’s space at the Los Angeles Art Show. “How much is it?”
Betina Tasende, director of the La Jolla-based firm’s Los Angeles gallery, says that company President Jose Tasende “is in negotiations for that piece” -- meaning that he’s trying to sell it to someone else.
“How much would it be if he weren’t in negotiations?” Resnick asks.
“It’s up there.”
“How far up?”
Five million dollars is definitely the high end of the price range at the weekend art fair, where some things can be purchased for a few hundred dollars, many others for thousands. Now in its 12th year and growing fast, under the umbrella of the Fine Art Dealers Assn., the fair has returned to Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, boasting “five centuries of fine art” offered by “80 top international galleries.”
Yet another local art fair running this weekend -- Art LA 2007, at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium -- concentrates on contemporary material. At the Los Angeles Art Show, contemporary art is part of an eclectic mix. Old Masters are almost as hard to find as toothpick sculptures and paintings of Elvis on velvet, but there is a broad selection of 19th to 21st century work at the hangar and an adjacent pavilion, added this year to expand the exhibition space.
Resnick, a major collector and one of three vice chairs of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s board of trustees, has agreed to take a whirlwind preview of the Los Angeles Art Show.
“I never miss it,” she says. “I always buy stuff here.”
She and her husband, Stewart Resnick, are the owners of Roll International Corp., a Los Angeles-based holding company that manages Paramount Agribusiness, POM Wonderful, FIJI Water, Teleflora and Suterra. Since the late 1970s, they have acquired Old Master paintings and European sculpture for their palatial L.A. residence, Western art and plein-air painting for their home in Aspen, Colo., and contemporary art for their offices.
On her own at the fair, Lynda Resnick forges ahead with the confidence of an extremely successful businesswoman, the curiosity of an art lover and a sharp sense of humor.
“With contemporary artists, there’s always hope,” she says. “Second-rate art of the past is just second rate.”
Well versed in several areas that she and her husband have collected, Resnick makes no pretense of being up to speed on emerging artists. But she finds plenty of contemporary art to investigate.
In the booth operated by New York dealer Jonathan O’Hara, she is intrigued with Jonathan Shahn’s sculpture of a bulbous head in a box. It’s bizarre but compelling, she thinks, and she’s fascinated to learn that the artist is the son of painter Ben Shahn, known for social criticism. Resnick also asks about Brenda Zlamany’s portraits of artists David Hockney, Leonardo Drew and David Humphrey. Painted on bright, solid-color backgrounds in narrow, vertical formats, they are available for $16,000 apiece.
At Brand X Projects, a New York publisher of limited-edition contemporary prints, Resnick admires intricately patterned works by Philip Taaffe and James Siena and a mesmerizing “Ocean Surface” print by Vija Celmins. At her next stop, where Meyerovich Gallery in San Francisco has filled its entire space with paintings and sculptures by Russian artist Grisha Bruskin, Resnick is captivated by a sculpture of a robed figure, cut out of a sheet of perforated steel and painted bright red. “I love it,” she tells the dealer, who brings out a book about Bruskin. He emerged in 1988 as the star of a landmark auction in Moscow and soon moved to New York.
At New York dealer Nancy Hoffman’s booth, Resnick discovers paintings by Hung Liu, a highly accomplished painter who was schooled in China and lives in Oakland. Then Resnick’s eyes light on a cluster of brightly glazed ceramic sculptures by Jesse Small, who merges traditional Chinese art forms and techniques with pop culture. Some of his pieces are shaped like Pac-Man, the video game character; others are based on cartoon “talk bubbles.” Priced at $450 to $1,500, they are a steal, Resnick thinks.
“This is just delicious,” she says, picking up a Pac-Man piece decorated with gold clouds.
Finding something new is part of the fun at art fairs, but so is revisiting the work of familiar artists. At Los Angeles dealer Louis Stern’s booth, Resnick looks at paintings by Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez, whose work is in her collection. She also asks the price of Helen Lundeberg’s “Portrait of Inez,” a painting that Resnick has seen in Stern’s gallery. It’s $125,000.
“Every time I turn it down, the price goes up,” she says.
Moving on, she stops to look at a landscape by Marion Wachtel at the booth of William A. Karges Fine Art, which specializes in early California and American paintings at galleries in Carmel and Los Angeles. She recognizes many artists of the same genres represented at L.A. dealer George Stern’s booth, but an early, unusually muted painting by Conrad Buff surprises her.
So does a 1935 painting of a rocky hillside by Ross Eugene Braught at Denver dealer David Cook’s booth. Resnick notices a resemblance to Thomas Hart Benton’s work, and Cook informs her that Benton was influenced by Braught.
Strolling down the aisles, Resnick reflects on the joys and hazards of collecting.
“We got burned once, in Italy,” she says. “A dealer who was so enchantingly handsome and charming pulled us off the street and sold us a painting as the work of Antonio Guardi.” It wasn’t, but the Resnicks still have it.
“I look at it,” she says. “It’s important to remember.”
But then she’s off to see the display offered by the Claire Oliver Gallery, a New York specialist in art made by women. Carson Fox’s pale green heart-shaped wall piece -- made of artificial flowers with the word “liar” embedded in the heart -- catches her attention. Resnick also asks about paintings of pairs of bald heads and learns that they are the work of a performance art duo known as Eva & Adele.
“They are in performance 24 hours a day,” the dealer says.
“It sounds like my life,” Resnick quips, heading off to her next appointment.
Los Angeles Art Show
Where: Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport, 3021 Airport Ave., Santa Monica
When: Noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
Contact: (310) 822-9145; www.LAArtShow.com
What: Art LA 2007
Where: Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica
When: Noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
Price: $15 to $25
Contact: (323) 937-4659; www.artfairsinc.com
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