Aficionados wandering the Frieze Los Angeles tent possibly missed one of the most interesting works on view this week. That is to be expected, however, since the piece was not shown at a gallery, nor was it anywhere in the fair. But it was nearby. Behind the bar at Sant’olina, the newly opened restaurant on the roof of the Beverly Hilton hotel, is a commanding, nine-panel glass mosaic, unseen for over two decades, which was recently discovered during renovations.
The seven panels depict figures from Classical mythology. In the centre, the winged god Mercury gazes upward as if about to take flight. Mars, the ancient god of war, sword in hand, sits on his left. To the right is Jupiter, brandishing a lightning bolt.
At first, the only hint of the mural’s creator was a pair of overlaid letters—“O” and “M”—enigmatically placed at the top of the central panel. The Hilton did the hard digging through archival newspaper articles and, with the help of a historian, discovered that the work was made by Dale Owen and Robert Mallory. It was installed when the hotel opened in 1955. At the time, the space was occupied by a French restaurant, L’Escoffier, a favourite of Beverly Hills locals. Despite a facelift in the early 1990s, L’Escoffier lost its lustre over the years and, in 1994, the mural and its mythological cast were hidden behind a wall until now. Unlike Frieze, entrance to Sant’olina is free—though the mural pairs well with a mezcal cocktail.