Fairs Market USA

Quiet on the set

Paris Photo Los Angeles’s Hollywood location at Paramount Pictures Studios struggles to draw many collectors in its first year

Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood

After 17 years in the French capital, the organisers of Paris Photo have staged their first fair in Los Angeles (24-28 April). Sixty galleries took part, 31 of them travelling from outside the US. Despite a quirky location and strong curatorial programme, however, the fair failed to transcend the city’s reputation as a tough place to sell art.

Paris Photo Los Angeles challenges the long-running Photo LA, held in January, as well as the city’s two main art fairs, Art Los Angeles Contemporary and Art Platform, all currently held in Santa Monica. For the new fair, visitors headed instead to the Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood, where they were able to roam the avenues between prop shops, soundstages and production bungalows.

The primary draw was the studio’s famous “New York back lot”, where permanent sets are designed to look like streets in SoHo, Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side. Younger galleries set up in the staged storefronts with solo artist projects, and publishers such as Aperture and Steidl/Mack sold their books and editions. Meanwhile, booths were constructed by Paramount’s set-builders for fair’s main section in three cavernous soundstages.

The contemporary art market remains notoriously sluggish in Los Angeles. After the preview, many dealers noted that the fair had not attracted as many buyers as they had hoped, and that many VIPs were deterred by difficult parking on the opening night. There was a better turn out among museum curators from California and the East Coast and Saturday was busier, with more collectors spotted and dealers feeling generally upbeat.

Emmanuelle Orenga de Gaffory, a director of Galerie Perrotin, admitted during the opening that “it has been quite slow, and sales have been very, very slow”. The French gallery has never before exhibited at Paris Photo, but here it shared a double-sized booth with Galerie 1900-2000, also from Paris. David Fleiss, the director of Galerie 1900-2000, said that he had made “not many sales but a few. We’re quite happy”. Prices for his vintage Man Ray prints were between €30,000 and €150,000. At the top end of the market, Fraenkel Gallery was showing three photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto at $300,000 each.

Historically important work—often by artists not considered primarily as photographers—was abundant. Konzett/Westlicht from Vienna brought grisly photographs of Viennese Actionism performances. Gallery Paule Anglim from San Francisco showed photographs from the 1970s by the conceptual artists Paul Kos, Tom Marioni and Lynn Hershman Leeson, as well as pictures of 1978 punk clubs by Bruce Conner, which attracted the attention of the avant-garde director David Lynch.

Many galleries exploited the cinematic context. Los Angeles’s Ambach & Rice showed work by Martina Sauter that splices the artist’s photographs with film stills. Priced between $2,500 and $11,000, the gallery sold half their booth by the end of the fair, including one piece to a European museum. “I’m excited to get in on the ground floor,” said the gallery’s director Charlie Kitchings, “I think Paris Photo Los Angeles has the potential to grown into a really sustainable fair.”

Another local dealer, François Ghebaly, reported strong sales from his on-set location in a New York brownstone, where he showed photographs by the LA-based Anthony Lepore, priced between $4,000 and $8,000. Like Sauter and many other artists in the fair, Lepore does not consider himself a photographer but a photo-based conceptual artist. “I like the irony,” said Ghebaly of his faux-New York space. “It’s no more fake than any other art fair.”

The galleries were complemented by an ambitious programme of talks and screenings, organised by the former Hammer curator Douglas Fogle. These included conversations between the artists Thomas Demand with Doug Aitken, and the photographer Gregory Crewdson with Matthew Weiner, the creator of the television series “Mad Men”.

Galleries set up in the Paramount Pictures Studios back lot
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