With a surge of successful galleries setting up shop, museums gaining substantial international recognition, and notable artists moving into town, Los Angeles is finally getting the recognition in the art world that it deserves.
By Marina Cashdan
Revisit the American art world 25 years ago and you’ll find that the action was happening almost exclusively in New York. By the late ’80s, however, pioneers like New York’s prestigious Luhring Augustine gallery began blazing the trail to the west, marking the start of the art world’s bicoastal expansion. While interest only trickled to the other side of the country during the ’90s, in the last few years a West Coast thrust has mounted so significantly that the City of Angels is now indisputably recognized as a credible art destination.
Los Angeles is in a hotbed of prestigious art universities-CalArts, UCLA, the Claremont Colleges, Art Center College of Design, and USC, to name a few-however, until recently, young artists found themselves with little to no financial backing upon graduating and were left with no option but to move to New York. But over the last 10 years interest in contemporary art piqued and with it came a wave of financial support for contemporary art institutions like MOCA, LACMA, and the Hammer Museum, with galleries germinating pari passu. That reality alongside the progressive mentality of the West Coast art community-including the great pride they take in their young artists-created an echelon in which the art institutions take cues from the artists and not vice versa. Whitney Museum associate curator Shamim Momin points out, “One of the most compelling aspects of the L.A. art world is the impact of the schools, in the strength and on-going commitment of the professor, as well as in the sense of community they engender thereafter. The galleries and museum certainly have presence in L.A., but it is one parallel to the artists, rather than the system of strict hierarchical validation that still retains in New York, by and large.” Now in 2007, there are dozens of reputable art galleries showing artists with considerable professional résumés both in and outside of Los Angeles-artists who also show with galleries in New York, Berlin, and London, among other notable art cities, and take part in major art exhibitions like the biennials and art fairs.
When a city is experiencing so much success, it’s hard to keep rumors that an art fair is looming at bay. While Armory Show founder Paul Morris feels that Los Angeles is a “sleeping giant” in art fair terms, the immense size of the city and limited public transportation present problems regarding being a potential location for a monstrous art fair. However, teeming with dozens of successful galleries, competitive exhibitions, and a flourishing art community, Los Angeles has evidently legitimized itself, sans art fair. Haute Living points out six art galleries in Los Angeles that you should keep your eye on.
Blum & Poe
2754 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Just east of Santa Monica and Venice, south of Beverly Hills, and north of LAX airport is Culver City. What was once only movie studios, car dealerships, low-rent factories, and gambling dens back in the Prohibition days, the semi-pedestrian neighborhood is now kin to New York’s West Chelsea, where white box galleries have sprouted between the industrial buildings and garages, and trendy eateries have made it L.A.’s new restaurant mecca. Where La Cienega meets Washington Boulevard there is considerable foot traffic: swarms of art-goers mix with trendy revelers, spilling over onto the street during the collective openings of the more than two dozen galleries, all less than five years old. The pioneering Blum & Poe gallery-a 5,000-square-foot orange building on La Cienega Blvd., co-owned by Timothy Blum and Jeff Poe-is an aesthetic and commercial benchmark in the neighborhood. The gallery has an impressive list of artists, including Carroll Dunham, Takashi Murakami, Anya Gallaccio, and Nigel Cooke. Their current exhibition, “Hope from a Dark Place,” is a solo show by esteemed video artist Slater Bradley, creator of “The Doppelganger Trilogy,” (recently acquired by the Guggenheim Museum, New York), a series that starred his alter ego Benjamin Brock playing music icons such as Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain, and Michael Jackson, recreating both the energy generated by adoring fans and, on the flipside, the uncontrollable downward spiral of success.
Gagosian Gallery and Regen Projects
456 North Camden Drive
Chances are you won’t run into the celebrities, socialites, and hip hop stars you might run into at the aforementioned Gagosian Gallery, but at Marc Selwyn Fine Art in Mid-Wilshire, you’ll find serious art dealers, curators, and long-time collectors shopping around.
633 North Almont Drive
Northwest of Culver City, in the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills neighborhoods, you’ll find power hitter galleries like Gagosian Gallery and Regen Projects whose rosters are made up of artists so well-known they deserve stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. At Gagosian, pieces by artists like Richard Prince, Mike Kelley, Damien Hirst, and Jeff Koons have price tags that exceed those in the neighboring Prada and Chanel stores. Their current exhibition, “You Left Me Breathing,” is a solo show by infamous mixed medium artist Tracey Emin, who sparked media furor in the late ’90s for “My Bed,” a piece made up of a bed with stained sheets and bloodied undergarments, used condoms, and other intimate items. Regen Projects advertises an equally impressive list of artists, including John Currin, Sol Lewitt, Charles Ray, John Bock, Elizabeth Peyton, and Matthew Barney, among many others with equally impressive tariffs. Their current exhibition is a solo show of conceptual artist Glenn Ligon who is known primarily for work that is greatly influenced by his experience as an African American gay man in the United States.
Michael Kohn Gallery
8071 Beverly Blvd.
On the fringe of West Hollywood, you’ll find the prestigious Michael Kohn Gallery representing a multigenerational list of artists, with established names Bruce Conner, John McLaughlin, and Carl Andre alongside mid-career talents like David Korty and Dennis Hollingsworth, and young emerging artists like Christine Nguyen. Kohn’s current exhibition is a solo show by American mixed-media master Bruce Conner, known for his assemblages of found objects such as stockings, bicycle wheels and broken dolls, and for his dramatic life-size photograms and elaborate inkblots.
Marc Selwyn Fine Art
6222 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 101
Chances are you won’t run into the celebrities, socialites, and hip hop stars you might run into at the aforementioned Gagosian Gallery, but at Marc Selwyn Fine Art in Mid-Wilshire, you’ll find serious art dealers, curators, and long-time collectors shopping around. Gallerist Marc Selwyn focuses primarily on established and mid-career artists, including photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Mel Bochner, James Casebere, and Tony Smith.
969 Chung King Road
In the late ’90s, with low rents and a close proximity to MOCA and schools like the Art Center College of Design and the Southern California Institute of Architecture, artists and art professionals were moving into Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Now this trendily seedy part of town is swelling with art folk, an evolution that feels reminiscent of New York’s East Village neighborhood. Art goers head to Chung King Road, a 500-foot pedestrian alley in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood, to find cutting-edge galleries like Peres Projects. Gallerist Javier Peres (who also has an outpost in Athens and Berlin) focuses “on important young artists working in any medium,” including those such as red-hot celebutant artists/performing artists such as Terence Koh, Dan Colen, and Dash Snow. If one is looking for a gallery that has its finger on the pulse of up and coming artists, Peres Projects is a sure bet.