Frieze Los Angeles got off to a sunnier start Thursday compared with its rain-soaked debut at Paramount Studios last year, as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Poehler and James Corden arrived with art world insiders to preview the West Coast’s preeminent contemporary art fair, which opens to the public Friday.
Museum of Contemporary Art Director Klaus Biesenbach, Broad founding Director Joanne Heyler and curators Paul Schimmel and Hans-Ulrich Obrist were among those gauging the temperature of artists, collectors and exhibitors from around the world.
The forecast: sunny, with intermittent gusts of air kisses.
Frieze, which started in London in 2003, drew 30,000 people to Paramount over four days last year, organizers said. The presence of global art admirers, buyers and sellers spawned parties, performances, art talks and other events citywide — plus a new nickname: Frieze Week.
Frieze 2020 will feature 77 exhibitors in its gallery tent, compared with last year’s 70. More than 80% are returning galleries.
No Chinese galleries are among this year’s exhibitors, and Frieze said no exhibitors have canceled because of travel restrictions related to the deadly coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean the outbreak hasn’t affected the fair. With the recent cancellation of Art Basel Hong Kong, which was set for March, some exhibitors are hoping to make up for lost sales at Frieze Los Angeles.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation for a number of reasons, a big loss for everyone involved,” said Alex Logsdail, director of London’s Lisson Gallery, which has outposts in New York and Shanghai. “But people are hopeful they can make up for lost business. There may also be a large number of collectors coming to L.A., people who no longer can go to Hong Kong so will be coming here instead. Though it may not be a realistic proposition to make up for two fairs in one. We’ll see.”
Endeavor Chief Executive Ariel Emanuel, whose firm acquired a majority stake in Frieze in 2016, not surprisingly was more bullish.
“What happened in China, it brought in a lot of people from Asia,” he said. “L.A. is the center of the art world, and this — Frieze — allows it to flourish.”
The Kulapat Yantrasast gallery tent is similar in size to his design last year, about 62,000-square feet and weather-proof. The big change? Color. A bright blue curtain crosses the front of the otherwise stark white structure. The exterior of the tent is crowned with an installation of bright, bubble-gum-pink balloons above the entrance.
“It’s difficult to navigate Paramount, and the balloons are visible from afar,” Yantrasast said. “We were thinking it’s almost like a pin in Google maps that tells visitors where they are.”
Visitors will again be able to wander the Paramount back lot’s faux brownstone-lined streets of New York, where Frieze Projects — 16 site-specific performances, sculptures and installations — will take place. The program, organized by Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Rita Gonzalez and Vincent Price Art Museum Director Pilar Tompkins Rivas, will address issues of representation, identity and myth.
Highlights inside the tent include a solo presentation of work by L.A. artist Alison Saar at L.A. Louver’s booth. South Africa’s Goodman Gallery is featuring work by Shirin Neshat, subject of a soon-to-close show at the Broad.
London’s Pace and L.A.’s Kayne Griffin Corcoran have a double booth showing new work by light and space artist James Turrell. LACMA Director Michael Govan emerged from the booth Thursday morning declaring: “Art fairs aren’t meditative, but this is.”
A new section of the tent called “Focus L.A.” is curated by Gonzalez and has local galleries.
Chinese curator Venus Lau, artistic director of Hong Kong’s K11 Art Foundation, organized an Asian-focused Film & Talks series. The theme of visibility and invisibility runs through the program, which will include a screening of Japanese director Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 animated cyberpunk feature, “Akira,” as well as Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas’ “The Most Beautiful Moment of War — El Momento más Hermoso de la Guerra” (2017).
Last year, Frieze featured nonprofits and artist-run organizations in newsstand-like kiosks on the back lot. This year that section is beefed up and called an “Artist Street Fair.” Sixteen mostly Los Angeles-based organizations include the Women’s Center for Creative Work and Artists for Democracy. Frieze Los Angeles Executive Director Bettina Korek’s ForYourArt organization will be putting on a live-streaming “telethon” featuring interviews with street fair participants and fair guests.
“We want people to know that you don’t have to be a collector to participate,” Korek said, “and that patronage can occur in everyday life.” (In March, Korek is headed to the Serpentine Galleries in London, where she will assume the role of chief executive. Frieze hasn’t named her replacement.)
This year’s fair once again is a hot ticket. The first and second release of tickets for the gallery tent already have sold out, Frieze said. Only tickets to the back lot portion were available as of Thursday.
As writer-director Jill Soloway made her way through the preview Thursday, she proclaimed her festival attire observation. “It’s all about the gym shoes this year,” she cracked.
Just then a gentleman wearing a cowboy hat with antlers and fuzzy tail attached to his rear strolled past, prompting Soloway to add: “And that guy!”
When: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: Gallery tent is sold out. Adult “Program-Only” ticket for back lot access is $60 Friday, $25 Saturday or Sunday; discounts for youths