With the 2022 fair circuit in flux—and numerous fairs postponed this year including Tefaf Maastricht from March to June—the organisers of Frieze Los Angeles (17-20 February) are nonetheless pressing ahead with the third edition of the Californian fair. It returns after a pause last year in the wake of the pandemic, featuring more than 100 galleries with 39 dealers from Los Angeles.
The fair takes place at a new location, 9900 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills adjacent to the celebrated Beverly Hilton hotel, in a bespoke structure designed by the company Why.
Crucially, Frieze Los Angeles is a major test of the market following the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, which has already derailed the launch of Frieze Sculpture Beverly Hills due to pandemic-related shipping delays and labour shortage.
In spite of this, organisers are maintaining a sunny disposition. Christine Messineo, the newly appointed director of Frieze Los Angeles and Frieze New York, says: “We have now had extensive experience of how to make a fair work in these conditions. Frieze New York was the first fair to return in person last year and was followed by Frieze London and Frieze Masters, where the market demonstrated its strength. I’m not sure ‘test’ is the right way to describe it; we’ve become malleable, thoughtful, in how we present a fair with the health and safety of our guests and exhibitors at the forefront of those decisions. Our community is resilient and has remained committed to Frieze Los Angeles.”
After the Covid-19-forced hiatus, local galleries are banking on the fair. “The Frieze brand and its international audience and operations—as well as the success of the two previous years the fair has been held—has indicated that the city has much to offer from its own unique and vibrant communities and residents,” says Brenda Reyes-Chavez of the Los Angeles-based Commonwealth and Council gallery. “The fair circuit has witnessed several Covid surges in the past two years, and the market has persevered in tandem. It seems unlikely that Omicron represents an exception to this pattern.”
Collectors may still be nervous about travelling, which means the fair could draw predominantly local collectors. Not so, says Messineo. “We do expect local collectors to visit but we also have a global thread. Frieze has fairs in New York, London and now Seoul—our audience does travel and we look forward to welcoming them,” she says. Elizabeth Gartner of the long-established Los Angeles gallery Regen Projects expects to see a wide range of collectors: “Frieze Los Angeles has always attracted a diverse crowd of eager collectors, and this year should be no different as we believe there is pent-up desire to come together and celebrate artists.”
For galleries outside the US, the fair is about getting back to the usual business of raising profiles and generating sales. Leopold Thun, the co-director of Emalin gallery in London, says that the easing of travelling restrictions means “we can actively continue to pursue to build the profile of our artists and our gallery in the States”. The gallery will show new multimedia sculptures by the Turkish artist Özgür Kar. “They’re each comprised of an animated character held inside a large-scale TV screen, slotted into bespoke flight cases,” Thun says. Prices start at $20,000.
• Frieze Los Angeles, 9900 Wilshire Boulevard,