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Sixth artLA show, faced with poor economy and new competition, is canceled

December 30, 2009 |  6:33 am

Metropolis Fledgling artLA. is going into hibernation. The sixth edition of the art fair, a showcase for contemporary work, was slated for Jan. 21-24 in Santa Monica but has been canceled. However, there are plans to return in 2011, Stephen Cohen, president of Artfairs Inc., which produces the fair, said Tuesday.

"Part of the reason is the economy," said Cohen, who also runs an eponymous photography gallery on Beverly Boulevard. With the economy still on mushy ground, he explained, people remain nervous about buying art. "Galleries are cutting back, and they’re waiting to see how the new year plays out."

His other fair, photo l.a. (Jan. 14-17, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium), is still on, although with a reduced slate – 40 to 50 exhibitors, down from about 70 earlier this year.

The other reason Cohen is stepping back is that a new fair competitive to his is being launched this January: Art Los Angeles Contemporary, founded by Tim Fleming, who was formerly director of artLA and  has taken nearly half of his exhibitors from his previous gig. Cohen maintains that their marketing has intentionally led to confusion. "In some people’s minds, that other fair was artLA," he said.

Fleming is positioning Art Los Angeles Contemporary as high-quality work with  "a strong local backbone," both in terms of galleries represented and outreach to organizations and venues on collaborative projects. That one takes place at the Pacific Design Center from Jan. 28 to 31.

Cohen is optimistic about "a triumphal return" for artLA. "I think it’s better to postpone artLA, reformulating it and making it a better fair."

-- Scarlet Cheng

Photo: Mike Saijo's "Metropolis (Film Still)" was shown at artLA in 2006. Credit: Mike Saijo