Pansy Ass Ceramics, “Pansyland” (courtesy of Superfine!)

Los Angeles is often considered an “artists city,” a backhanded compliment inferring that it’s a great place to make art but not to sell it. Over the past decade, the city’s profile as a well-rounded art center has grown — with the founding of private museums like the Broad and the Marciano, as well as curatorial endeavors that bestow institutional recognition to local talent like the Hammer’s Made in LA Biennial, and the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative. It still remains to be seen, however, whether Los Angeles can make that link between creativity and commerce that defines a truly international art capital.

Art fairs are a big part of this equation, and while Art Los Angeles Contemporary — LA’s most substantial fair — turns 10 this year, several others have failed to succeed, including Paris Photo LA and FIAC, which suffered from “the absence of a mature market,” as Jean-Daniel Compain, a senior vice president at Reed Exhibitions France, which organized both fairs, said in 2016. This week, however, Los Angeles will be graced by no fewer than six art fairs, drawing in collectors, curators, artists, and writers from around the country and the world. From heavyweight Frieze — which makes its much-anticipated Los Angeles debut — to stARTup — where solo artists, not galleries, get booths — these fairs run the gamut from informal, local, and relatively inexpensive, to international, celebrity-laden, high stakes affairs. Below are some notes on what each fair has to offer.

Frieze Los Angeles

Since mounting their first contemporary art fair in London in 2003, Frieze has been a major player in the international art fair game. Jumping the pond in 2012, they scored another hit with Frieze New York, and now they’re aiming for a hat trick with Frieze Los Angeles. Located on the Paramount Studios Lot in Hollywood, the fair will feature over 70 galleries from around the world housed in a tent designed by LA-based architect Kulapat Yantrasast. A subsidized section will highlight emerging local galleries including Commonwealth & Council, The Pit, and Château Shatto.

In addition to the gallery booths, a curated program of installations, talks, and performances will augment the mercantile aspect. On the studio’s backlot (site of the ill-fated Paris Photo LA), curator Ali Subotnick has organized 16 artist projects that will interact with and play off the lot’s faux cityscape, including works by Barbara Kruger, Karon Davis, Lisa Anne Auerbach, and Caetano Ferrer. A selection of arts-focused nonprofits, including Acid Free and the Women’s Center for Creative Work, will also set up shop on the backlot. LAXART Executive Director Hamza Walker has put together Frieze Talks, which began last week with “Name That Tune” events with Lauren Halsey, Frances Stark, and Jim Shaw, and will continue with talks between artists, and conversations on patronage. Tickets for the curated programs are available separately from tickets for the gallery portion, which is a good thing, since general admission tickets are already sold out.

If that’s not enough, online platform CurateLA has teamed up with the Institute of Contemporary Art LA for an irreverent Hollywood bus tour led by Jen Stark, Nao Bustamante, and Salina Estitties. Titled “Ceci n’est pas un Bus Tour,” tickets for the three-hour event are $250, with proceeds going to support the ICA’s free programming.

When: Friday, February 15–Sunday, February 17
Where: Paramount Pictures Studios (5515 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, Los Angeles)
Tickets: Gallery tickets: sold out; Curated program: students: $10; general: $20

Art Los Angeles Contemporary

Eric Croes, “Totem, Giant Right Leg” (2019), glazed ceramic, 84.5 x 17.75 x 17.75 inches (image courtesy Eric Croes and Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles, photo by Hugard & Vandoverschelde)

Celebrating their 10th anniversary, Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC), shifted their schedule this year from January to coincide with Frieze. They’re also unveiling a new visual identity designed by Brian Roettinger, and a new pavilion design by architecture firm Olson Kundig.

In addition to the over 80 international galleries filling Santa Monica’s Baker Hanger, there will be a new Salon section curated by Claudia Rech called “The Academy,” featuring LA’s Smart Objects, Berlin’s Thomas Schulte, and Bonny Poon from Paris. Also new this year is a mini-book fair titled “Moveable Types,” dedicated to contemporary art publishers like New York’s Printed Matter, LA’s X Artists’ Books, and Zulu Press from Brussels / Mexico City. 

Also in the mix are a series of public programs including Marie Kalberg’s performative send-up of the gallery system, “The Artist Will Be In Attendance,” and Eric Wesley’s major KonMari, during which he will transport everything in his office, including available artworks, to ALAC, to be sold as one single work for $1 million.

When: Wednesday, February 13–Sunday, February 17
Where: Barker Hangar (3021 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, California)
Tickets: Day Pass: $25/$30; Four-day Pass: $45; Opening Night: $75


(image courtesy Felix LA)

Conceived by prominent Angeleno collector Dean Valentine and the Morán brothers of West Hollywood’s Morán Morán Gallery, Felix is intended as a more accessible alternative to the tent-based mega-fairs. Inspired by the smaller, more intimate fairs of the ’90s, specifically the Gramercy International Los Angeles at the Chateau Marmont, Felix makes its debut at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, with galleries occupying hotel rooms and cabanas instead of booths. A tight group of 41, mostly US-based galleries, will shack up there including Kavi Gupta from Chicago, LA’s Nicodim, White Columns from New York, and Jessica Silverman from San Francisco.

A series of Special Projects round out the offerings such as a mystical intervention from Lazaro’s A.S.T.R.A.L.O.R.A.C.L.E.S., presented by Five Car Garage, in the lobby; “the 13th floor,” a group show of French artists selected by critic and curator Andrew Berardini; and Jacolby Satterwhite’s dance-based, queer, futurist, liberation in the stairwell. In keeping with the organizers’ desire to keep the fair as accessible as possible, entry is free.

When: Thursday, February 14–Sunday, February 17
Where: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, Los Angeles)
Tickets: Free

stARTup Art Fair Los Angeles 2018 opening day. (photo courtesy stARTup Art Fair and Mido Lee Productions)

stARTup Art Fair

Now in its fourth LA edition, the stARTup Art Fair is also based in a hotel, the Kinney Venice Beach, but that’s where the similarities with Felix end. Bypassing galleries altogether, stARTup aims to connect collectors directly to artists, over 60 of which have been selected for inclusion by a team of curators, gallerists, and their peers. With price points presumably lower than the higher profile fairs, stARTup can provide an opportunity for younger collectors with more limited budgets.

Alongside the artist marketplace, they’ll have a series of programs and talks including a conversation between veteran critic Peter Frank and artist Lezley Saar, and a presentation from artist Alex Reben on human-machine collaborations and AI. The organizers are also hoping to capitalize off of ALAC’s proximity with a free shuttle between venues every half hour from noon to 6pm each day.

When: Friday, February 15–Sunday, February 17
Where: The Kinney Venice Beach (737 West Washington Blvd, Venice, California)
Tickets: Students: $10/$15; General: $15/$20; Three Day Pass: $30/$40; VIP: $100


With branches already established in New York, Miami, and DC, Superfine! is making its inaugural effort in Los Angeles this year. They also tout “transparency and accessibility” as selling points, with most works priced under $5,000. Around 250 artists will be represented across a Gallery Pavilion, Artist Pavilion, and a Curated Projects section including “Pansyland,” a campy bacchanalia installation from Toronto’s Pansy Ass Ceramics, and This is America!, a group show which tackles our nation’s identity crisis. Although it seems unpretentious and diverse, it’s still unclear whether Superfine! will be a breath of fresh air, or another pop-up art experience lacking in substance.

When: Thursday, February 14–Sunday, February 17
Where: The Reef (1933 S. Broadway, Downtown, Los Angeles)
Tickets: Day Pass: $10; All Access: $75; Opening Night: $50

Spring/Break Art Show

Atlas 8th Street Stalls (image courtesy Skylight Studios)

While some fairs on this list boast an international approach, Spring/Break‘s focus is hyper-local, with almost all the participants hailing from Los Angeles. Moving outside of its New York home base for the first time, Spring/Break’s inaugural Los Angeles event will be sited in a complex of abandoned produce stalls in downtown Los Angeles. Emerging local galleries such as Tin Flats, Elevator Mondays, and Hunter Shaw Fine Art will be joined by solo artists representing their own work, including Devin Troy Strother, Nicole Nadeau, and Theodore Boyer. Although Angelenos may be familiar with some of the participants, Spring/Break will offer them, and the countless visitors to Los Angeles this week, the opportunity to encounter new and unknown artists and spaces, before they end up at Frieze.

When: Friday, February 15–Sunday, February 17
Where: The Stalls at Skylight ROW DLTA (1925 East 8th Street, Downtown, Los Angeles)
Tickets: General: $20; Opening Night: $25; VIP First Look: $30

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Matt Stromberg

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.