The Los Angeles art scene has its moment in the sun

The artists have lived and worked in the sunshine in and around Los Angeles for decades, attracting collectors from the United States and abroad, working with dozens of local galleries and stimulating the growth of a number of contemporary art institutions. But the city’s identity as a global arts center is eluding him.

So far.

Since the end of last year, top-level galleries, starting with Sean Kelly of New York, followed by Leeson (based in London) and David Zwirner, have announced that they will open spaces in the city. World heavyweight Pace partnered with Kayne Griffin to open its gallery in Los Angeles in April (her third attempt since the 1960s), while New York’s Sargent’s Daughters and Shrine galleries, along with Carpenters Workshop, a fine merchant art designs with spaces in London, Paris, and New York have announced that they will also soon open in LA

The European power plant Hauser & Wirth announced in June 2021 that it would open a second place in Los Angeles in West Hollywood by the fall of 2022. Six years earlier, it had opened a destination in the Arts District at a former flour mill since the early 20th century. -th century and a restaurant with performances featuring commissioned works by local artists such as Mark Bradford and Richard Petibone.

The second space reflects Hauser & Wirth’s strategy of integrating into the cities in which it does business, and the reality of LA is not a unique place, but a metropolis of different neighborhoods, said Staisen Berg, partner at Hauser & Wirth, who manages the LA program. The location in West Hollywood is also closer to most of the gallery’s customers, which is not a small thing in a city with such famous traffic.

Joan Hailer, founder of The Broad.

Courtesy of The Broad

This is not the only time New York and international blue chip dealers have set up shop in LA In the 1990s, several galleries, including Luhring Augustine (which briefly partnered with Galerie Max Hetzler), inhabited Santa Monica. and other parts of the city. . “They didn’t last long,” recalls Peter Goulds, the founding director of LA Louver, which has been in Venice, California, since 1975.

The reason PaceWildenstein closed its 4-year-old gallery in Los Angeles in 1999 was that it failed “as a cultural and educational place,” wrote Arne Glimcher, Pace’s founder, in a letter to the Los Angeles Times in response to an article blaming economic conditions. Glimcher contrasted his experience in the city in contrast to New York, where “going to galleries is an integral part of cultural life.”

Today’s influx of high-level shopping galleries announcing new spaces in LA shows that the city’s cultural life has changed. Art schools and artists have long defined the Los Angeles art scene, but there are now several major contemporary art institutions in the city, a global art fair in Frieze LA, and a growing harvest of independent art spaces.

“This is the first time we have had smaller galleries, curators and art spaces doing terribly interesting work, and at the same time you can go and see the top class shows in Gagosian or Hauser & Wirth or places like that’s what, “said Bennett Roberts, co-owner of Roberts Projects. “The infrastructure has become very strong to upgrade, it can’t just disappear now.”

Joan Hailer, co-director of The Broad, a museum of contemporary art set up in downtown LA by philanthropists and collectors Eli and Edythe Broad, notes that the museum has recently acquired several works from city-based galleries, including paintings by a local artist. Seire Gomez from the François Ghebaly Gallery, which brings together observations from driving through the city’s shopping areas. “They’re great for this charm and mystery of the city,” says Hailer.

Catherine Opie. monument / monumental, 2020

Courtesy of the artist and The Broad Art Foundation, photo by Joshua White

Hayler, a Los Angeles native who worked with Ellie Broad for more than 35 years initially as director and chief curator of the Broad Art Foundation, says the philanthropist, who died in 2021, pursued a vision for the city as the international capital of the arts. Haylor can’t say for sure if this day has come, but “if you’re interested in contemporary art and you’re a collector or observer, writer or scientist, you have to come to LA – you can’t avoid it.”

That is why the best and largest galleries in the world want to be in the city. Sean Kelly will open on North Highland Avenue this fall with a show by British artist Idris Hahn, who has a family in Los Angeles. Khan is creating a new work for the 10,000-square-foot gallery, designed by architect Toshiko Mori, which includes paintings, watercolors, photography and sculpture that match “the ideas he has for LA,” Kelly said.

The gallery will be run by Sean’s son Thomas Kelly, who has moved to the city, and Courtney Treut, a senior director who previously worked at Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles. The guide aims to show the gallery’s commitment to being the first institution in Los Angeles, not just a show in New York.

“Every exhibition in LA will be made to order for LA and will be made to order for the collection base in LA,” says Sean Kelly.

The energy of the local Los Angeles artistic community has always been a driving force, says Berg of Hauser & Wirth. “Our relationship with the city didn’t start six years ago, it started 30 years ago with connections to artists,” Berg said. “Paul McCarthy, Richard Jackson, Jason Rhodes – these are the artists who set the tone for our program because they were super influential in the early days of our gallery.”

Sean Kelly and his son Tom Kelly.

Courtesy of Sean Kelly

Artists outside of Los Angeles are also attracted to the city because of its light, space and time, but also because it is a friendly and peaceful place. “There’s pressure in New York that they don’t feel here,” Berg said. Exhibitions in LA can be a little more experimental, more relaxed. It’s more fun. ”

The pandemic may still limit travel, but the eruption of new messages in the gallery shows that dealers are confident that visitors will return and Los Angeles will be a destination again. For the sun and the beaches, yes, but also for the museums and galleries, and for the artists and their accessibility.

Local artists appear at museum exhibitions and gallery openings for other artists and often open their light-filled spacious collectors’ studios, an experience uncharacteristic of other art destinations. “There’s an intimacy with the artists here that is unique,” Treut told Sean Kelly.

The immediacy of this connection and the caliber of the artists who live and work in LA and have grown strong international “footprints” – thanks in part to the ubiquity of the Internet – are fundamental to the city’s cultural fabric today.

“It’s a really intriguing way to grow the arts community, through artists rather than trade or, frankly, collectors,” says Hailer. “He’s very much led by artists, and that’s the key.”

This article appeared in the June 2022 issue Penta magazine.

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