Paris Photo expands to U.S. with new L.A. fair

Yes, they’ve heard the horror stories about how challenging it can be to start a successful or just sustainable art fair here. But the organizers of Paris Photo, widely considered the leading photography fair abroad, have decided to hold their first-ever U.S. fair in Los Angeles.

In the tradition of international art fairs that confound geography (Art Basel Miami Beach, anyone?), the new event will be called Paris Photo L.A. It will take place next April 24-28. And, in a bid to make the art fair a more dramatic event, it will not set up shop in a familiar venue like the convention center downtown or Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar but on the lot of Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

“Paramount is a good balance for us between history and a chance to invent our own format. We could use a soundstage, outside space, maybe some specific sets that they have available,” said Julien Frydman, the fair’s director, who spent several months looking for an accessible and also memorable venue. “But it’s important to understand this is not a tribute to cinema but a way of looking at how other artists are using images.”

He described “many factors” behind choosing L.A. as the new location, including the rich tradition of conceptual artists here experimenting with photography, a number of serious photography collectors in town and institutional interest in the medium (he named the Getty, LACMA and MOCA). It’s an easy trip for members of the San Francisco photo community.


It’s also a convenient way to not compete for exhibitors and visitors with big New York art fairs such as AIPAD, the most prominent photography fair in the U.S. The most direct competition in California is the long-running fair Photo L.A., which has over the last decade lost some of its more prestigious galleries. Its next edition is scheduled for the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium from Jan. 17-21, 2013.

Founded in 1997, Paris Photo takes place in France every November. Last year the fair, which traded its home in the Carrousel du Louvre for the Grand Palais, drew some 50,000 visitors to booths by 135 exhibitors, including L.A. galleries M+B, Luisotti and Rose Gallery. Frydman expects the L.A. edition to have about 70 galleries and another 10 publishers or rare book dealers.

A major goal, he says, is to go beyond “the ghetto of photography” and show image making, taking and manipulating that feels relevant today in the larger field of contemporary art.

Britt Salvesen, the head of the photography department at LACMA, said an attempt “to acknowledge the photographic tradition but also embrace contemporary and time-based media would be one way to carve out a new area. it would position them differently than most other art fairs.”

On twitter: @jorifinkel


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