Pacific Standard Time USA

Support wavers for commercial projects in LA

Dealers unsure about Art Platform, but hope to benefit from Pacific Standard Time ripple effect

The long road to an LA art fair

los angeles. While the Pacific Standard Time (PST) initiative has prompted an unprecedented collaboration between Los Angeles museums and non-profit spaces (see pp10-11), a new art fair hoping to encourage a similar collegiate spirit among commercial dealers, Art Plat­form LA (1-3 October), has failed to generate the same levels of excitement.

While the dealer list for Art Platform LA has some well-respected names including local galleries Susanne Vielmetter and Thomas Solomon, as well as out-of-towners such as New York’s Andrew Kreps, the fair’s organisers have failed to secure the number of major international ­dealers that they originally hoped to attract. Executive director Adam Gross remains sanguine: “Every­one understands the promise of Los Angeles and how exciting a place it is, but I understand that we’re a start-up fair. I see this as a two- or three-year process.”

Some of those dealers are waiting to gauge reactions to the first edition. “As much as we considered it, and are thinking about it for the future, it just ­didn’t make sense this year. There is so much going on with PST that we didn’t think we could do everything properly,” says Sarah Watson, director of L&M’s Los Angeles gallery. Another dealer, who asked to remain nameless, was more cynical: “I don’t think anyone needs an art fair. There are too many. LA is particularly tricky for anyone who chooses to take it on… it comes with such a huge number of obstacles.”

High hopes

Such ambiguity about the fair contrasts with the unanimous support from dealers for the museum-led PST project. “The autumn season is pumped. It’s going to be amazing. It’s exactly what we need—a focus on the art here, the content. That’s what LA is about,” says Tim Blum, co-founder of LA gallery Blum & Poe. The visitor numbers generated by the initiative could have a domino effect. “PST gives people yet another reason to come to LA. It could create a critical mass, which takes things to the next level. You definitely get the feeling something substantial is happening,” says Adrian Rosen­feld of Matthew Marks gallery, which is opening a 3,000 sq. ft space in West Hollywood in January with a specially commissioned façade designed by Ellsworth Kelly.

Local artists who never found international attention may benefit from PST’s plan to catalogue the post-war output of southern California’s artists. With public recognition often comes increased market value. “We certainly hope that’s the case,” says Mike Homer, director at David Kordansky gallery. “One of the incredible things about LA is its history, and a lot of people still don’t fully recognise that. Everyone knows about Ferus gallery [see pp43-45], but there is so much more to LA: hopefully PST will bring more attention to important artists like Richard Jackson,” says Homer, whose gallery is holding a Jackson exhibition to coincide with PST (until 20 October).

Tim Nye, who is launching an LA gallery, Nye + Brown, this month agrees: “A whole generation got lost. The east-coast artists benefitted from a lot of critical support that the LA artists didn’t have, but things are improving quickly. PST is a gigantic LA-wide city billboard, complete with pompoms.”

Supply and demand

It is becoming a cliché to talk about the abundance of artists in LA, and how their supply outstrips local demand. Nonetheless, it is interesting that Christie’s has not re-hired the staff it cut in LA when the recession took hold between 2008 to 2009. While Andrea Fiuc­zynski, president of Christie’s Los Angeles, says the strategy was to reshape not to downsize, the fact that Christie’s “shifted the business model into an aggressive, business-getting office”, favours the idea that the majority of art buyers remain on the east coast of the US.

Fiuczynski says that major dealers are opening in LA: “Look at who is choosing LA—they are not expanding anywhere else in the mid-west.” Indeed, the art world has been keeping construction workers busy: from L&M gallery’s opening in Venice in September 2010 and Gagosian’s huge Beverly Hills expansion earlier that summer, to ongoing projects including Matthew Marks’s development and Shaun Regen’s new West Hollywood building.

Nonetheless, east-coast dealers say there are not enough home-grown collectors to support the market while local dealers disagree. “LA doesn’t have the second city complex it had at one time,” says Philip Martin of Cherry and Martin gallery. “We’ve seen it grow from the doldrums to a gale-force wind,” says Blum.

Looking to China

“LA is deeply under served as an art capital. We’re not talking about a sideshow, the city has become the main event,” says Perry Rubenstein, who is closing his New York gallery and opening a 9,000 sq. ft space in West Holly­wood, timed to coincide with the Oscars ceremony in March 2012. “The key to this business is whether you represent great artists. London was boring until the YBAs, and now it’s a major international hub. There is the same opportunity in LA,” he says.

All say that the influence of Hollywood is overrated. “There are some wonderful collectors coming out of Hollywood, but it’s not the dominant support system,” says Watson.

As the market becomes more global, LA is ideally placed to function as a hub, says Rubenstein. “The largest community of Chinese immigrants with concentrated wealth is here, and LA is closer to China than New York and to the booming Latin American economies. It has such great potential.”

Perhaps the greatest possible legacy of PST would be if it boosts LA’s independent image at home and beyond. “The great thing about LA is that it’s not NY. We love LA for LA. If you want New York, go to New York,” says Blum.

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