Frieze LA ’24

Four hours on VIP Thursday at the 2024 iteration of Frieze LA left me unqualified to make informed judgments but still with reactions, however superficial. The initial reaction, as often at such a fair, was being overwhelmed. The crowd was huge, the booths were packed atop each other and there was no easy way to find your way, even with map in hand. One cause was the narrowness of the corridors between booths. A picture I saw today of a previous fair at the Paramount Studios showed significantly wider aisles, which gave one a chance to breathe and meant you weren’t always fighting your way. Certainly the fairs we’ve been to at the 67th St. Armory in New York have been more spacious, and gracious.

As to the art, I generally liked what I saw. There was something of interest in maybe 50% of the booths; whereas at the last Frieze NY we went to we found almost nothing. At the same time, this was not a shopping opportunity or a place of discovery. The first painting we inquired about carried a $350,00 price tag, and $50,000 seemed to be the entry point. Almost invariably when I spotted a work that appealed to me, I learned from the label that, although the work might be unfamiliar, the artist’s name was not.

If there was a noticeable trend it was the representation of Black artists and, as the NY Times pointed out, Asian artists, particularly Korean. I have long had a soft spot for modern Korean artists, and we were especially interested to see works by Suki Seokyeong Kang because of her first name.

If I may generalize, from my position of ignorance, I felt that the exhibitors were using this fair to display examples of big-ticket big-name works in order to tap into wealthy California collectors. In other fairs in New York, I’ve felt that galleries were more willing to introduce less-known artists and devote the entire booth to one-person shows, which both offered a sense of discovery as well as more moderately priced wares. For example, Michael Rosenfeld operates one of our favorite galleries in Chelsea, where I have seen shows of historic artists I’d never heard of. At Frieze, his gallery consisted exclusively of works by Beauford Delaney, Alma Thomas and Norman Lewis–three historically important artists, all of whom “happen to be” Black. Lovely to look at, but nothing to learn or buy.

In retrospect, I wish I had played the game of, What were your 10 favorite pieces? That would have given me a focus and made me look more closely, as well as take down the names. The first piece we asked about was a beautiful still life of flowers on a white background by Jordan Casteel. Siri pointed out a sculptural assemblage in the shape of a bird’s head by Lee Bontecou. She also singled out an Uta Barth photograph after Morandi, and we both loved a smoky Kapoor-like disc by Olafur Eliasson (both at Tanya Bonakdur). I admired wispy abstractions (in $30, $60 and $120 thousand sizes) by Sarah Grilo. I had never heard of her but today came across a review in the Times of her show at Galerie Lelong’s New York space. A wispy large black-and-white photo montage in two planes of a tree by a Korean photographer was the kind of object we covet for our guest house addition. Taka Ishii Gallery displayed b&w works by Japanese photographers, one of a teahouse interior structure that Siri loved, and my favorite: a larger composite work by an 82-year-old man living in California, Kunie Sugiura, who will be having a show at SFMoMA later this year. (A bonus was studying it first with Abaseh Mirvali and later with her friend Sally Katz, an SFMoMA photography curator.) Two small woven works by Sheila Hicks were pleasing. And I will add to the list if I read reviews that jog my memory.

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