Let’s face facts: art fairs are entertainment. They provide an opportunity for the mildly culturally curious to scan and peruse 40-80 galleries which trot out their chosen “best.” All under one roof. Art fairs are the malls of the visual culture world. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are pretentious, expensive and self congratulatory-Armory anyone? Some try for a raw, young and rough veneer which they believe to be proof of authenticity, NADA anyone? Some just look needy from the start, Pulse and Scope of late come to mind.
On the entertainment basis, Paris Photo Los Angeles was a game changer. The venue made for one of the most pleasant art fair experiences ever. Most art malls are mounted under one roof, mostly a convention center or civic auditorium. This generic environment strips all character from the proceedings and they hold you in the venue’s grip from parking lot to fair and back again. The most recent physical incarnation has been the outsized tent, which lends an air of revival meeting circa 1952.
Paris Photo settled into the sound stages and fake streets of the Paramount Studios like a bespoke glove. Three large ceilinged sound stages became the familiar milieu of rows of booths. But visitors had to walk (something foreign enough to Angelinos) from one site to another. And on these walks visitors got a chance to amble the mock streets of the venerable studio. Turn a corner and you were in a Greenwich Village street with brownstones and stoops. Another corner offered an erstwhile Chicago street scape and in each area photo dealers, exhibitions and bookshops occupied the stores.
Couple this thematic art mall with the brilliant sunshine and moderate temps of Los Angeles and you get a user friendly entertainment for the aesthetically minded. The vernissage even sported theatrical lights beaming down the warm glow of 20k fernels. Artifice meet Art. Art, Artifice.
If seeing art, booth after booth, wall after over hung wall is an experience of visual inhaling then Paris Photo in its new LA incarnation has mastered a built in exhale. I know no one who can continue to inhale endlessly. After a while, it all becomes white noise.
With the physical layout of the fair spread over stages and streets, visitors had a chance to exhale; sip a coffee in the sun and chat about their favorites with fellow art enthusiasts; strike up conversations about either art or the relative merits of sliders versus turkey focaccia sandwiches with strangers and wing men alike. Paris Photo has managed a paradigm shift, which might be hard to replicate elsewhere but has, in the process, set a new high water mark for the very concept of what an art fair can be.
In this regard, much has been made that Paris Photo chose Los Angeles as their first non-Parisian branded version. The standard line has been what a gift to LA it has been that Paris Photo is here but I’d like to venture that it’s LA’s gift to Paris Photo.
-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles May 28th, 2013
The art in question and on display neither exceeded the expectations nor fell far below. The usual suspects were mostly on display with the occasional pleasant surprise and/or discovery. Here then a few highlights:
also by Mario M. Muller
- Mid-Century Modern at LAMA Auction House, Van Nuys - February 20th, 2014
- Robert Therrien at Gagosian, Beverly Hills - January 22nd, 2014
- Art Fair Season in Los Angeles - January 15th, 2014
- Roy Dowell at Various Small Fires - October 14th, 2013
- Leon Benn at Carter & Citizen - September 13th, 2013