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A fair season for art fairs in L.A.

January 9, 2010 | 10:30 am


Sculpt January has become art fair season in Los Angeles, and this month we see the return of two fairs -- photo l.a. (Jan. 14-17) and the Los Angeles Art Show (Jan 20-24) -- and the launch of a new one, Art Los Angeles Contemporary (Jan. 28-31). Meanwhile artLA goes on hiatus, a casualty of the economy as well as competition from the new fair.

Some may confuse the two, and for good reason.  ALAC is run by Tim Fleming, the former director of artLA, and he has managed to pick up many of his 55 dealers from the previous gig – among them high-profile gallerists Blum & Poe, Honor Fraser, Marc Selwyn and Susanne Vielmetter.

Why a new fair? Fleming says, “It’s really a reflection of what the galleries are interested in.... It’s a very tricky time with the economy, and it was time to reconfigure an art fair here. "Being in the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood is part of that reconfiguration."

Photo l.a. comes first on the calendar. “It’s the longest running art fair in L.A.,” photo l.a. founder Stephen Cohen points out. “This will be our 19th year.” It continues in its home for the last eight years, the Santa Monica Civic Center, but is down to 40 dealers from last year’s 65. “All the fairs are down,” says Cohen, who has just came back from photo miami. Still, he says, “We sold more, and were selling afterwards.”

Last year the 14th annual Los Angeles Art Show, with its wide array of art offerings – from classic European painting to contemporary work – moved downtown, into the Convention Center. This boosted exhibition space by over 50% from its former location at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Sales were apparently good enough under the circumstances, and they attracted 35,000 visitors. “The crowds were impressive,” says art dealer Jack Rutberg, who had a prominent booth at the fair, “and not just in terms of numbers. It was a who’s who of collectors and some curators.”

“It was definitely a difficult time in terms of sales,” says Kim Martindale, director of the Art Show. “Attendance was up 8% from the year before. The great thing was that everything was on one floor, which gave it a cleaner, more professional feel.”

This year they are listing 100 exhibitors, down from the 124 last year. “We’re down,” admits Martindale, “but given what other shows have gone through around the country, I’m pleased with that number. There will be more international galleries, and it will be stronger for those that participate.” For more on the fair season, click here for the story in Arts & Books.

 Photo: Mindy Shapero's "The feeling of everything" will be shown at the Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair.