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It's a fair time for art in L.A.

January 8, 2009 | 12:52 pm

Melanie Pullen Three Southern California art fairs in January, two of them in one weekend? In this economy?

It may defy logic, but business is business.

As conceived when the financial outlook was rosier, photo l.a., an annual marketplace for a kaleidoscopic range of photography, will begin tonight with a gala preview and continue through the weekend at Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hangar. Art LA, a showcase and sales venue for edgy new work, is gearing up for its Jan. 23-25 gig, also at Barker Hangar. And the Los Angeles Art Show, offering an eclectic survey of art from the last two centuries, is sticking with its plan to leave Barker for the much larger L.A. Convention Center, where it will appear Jan. 22-25.

"We have confidence that art is still a good buy," says L.A. photography dealer Stephen Cohen, who founded photo l.a. in 1992 and launched Art LA in 2005. "It's a buyer's market. We expect a big turnout, but it might be that a lot of people are looking, holding on to their money or getting an idea of what to buy when they have some to spend."

No one is predicting record sales, but the fairs are likely to attract thousands of visitors, if only because they are cultural events as well as one-stop shopping centers for the art crowd. Collectors, wannabes and the merely curious have an opportunity to meet and greet art folks, make the rounds of booths stocked by an international assortment of galleries, go to collecting seminars and hear lectures and panel discussions.

At photo l.a., Cohen has rounded up about 65 dealers who concentrate on photography or include photo-based work in contemporary art exhibition programs. Local participants such as Ace, Michael Dawson, DNJ and Sarah Lee will be joined by Charles Cowles and Gitterman of New York, Flo Peters of Hamburg, Stephen Hoffman of Munich, Simon Finch of London and the Czech Center of Photography in Prague.

This weekend's photography fair also offers collecting seminars each day from 10 a.m. to noon. Charlotte Cotton, head of the photography department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will preside on Friday; Karen Sinsheimer, curator of photography at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, on Saturday; and Jonathan Green, executive director of the UC Riverside Arts Block, on Sunday. Three lectures by photographers are scheduled on Sunday: Joel-Peter Witkin at 11 a.m., Catherine Opie at 1 p.m., Jim Goldberg at 3 p.m.

An article about all three fairs will be in Sunday's Calendar.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photo credit: "General Patton" by Melanie Pullen, courtesy of Ace Gallery