Frieze Press Preview Day

Arriving at the Frieze press desk, I tell the attendant that her lipstick is wonderful. “Sephora lip stain #01.  RED!” she tells me.

I walk into my first gallery.

I ask some gallery employees why they choose to not include information about mediums in their captions. “It is a long-standing conscious choice of ours not to include things like dimensions and medium, because that information is absolutely SUPERFLUOUS,” a gallery employee sniffs at me. I agree, vaguely, having spent too much time over the years in museums squinting at the information about mediums rather than engaging with the pieces. 

A minute later a man asks about the medium for a piece and they have to look it up. A minute after that, another man asks about the dimensions of another piece on the wall and someone has to take out a tape measure.

Gallery employees are very often women in their thirties who are very fancy, very cold, and very busy, leaning over their laptops in a primal sort of panic.

“Is that for public consumption?” I ask, pointing to the bottle of champagne on the table. “Not yet,” a gallery owner tells me in heavily French-accented English, with a wink.

Stranger: “Walking around this fair for millions of hours gets tiring.”

Her companion: “Tomorrow I’ll wear sneakers.”

First woman: “You can!”

“Well, we DID do 500 million in sales last year,” one gallerist says languidly to her coworker.

Spring/Break Art Show

I walk into the wrong entrance at the large industrial building hosting the Spring/Break Art Show.

“Sorry!” a young cheery Englishwoman at a desk tells me. “This is a dumpling-associates popup!”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more beautiful sentence.

I emerge from the elevator on the correct floor this time, and am greeted by a stack of 200 Amazon boxes. I have no idea if this is part of an art installation.

I see a little moon-man, drawn in graphite, in the corner of a booth. Next to it the artist has written, in cursive: “hale-bopp.” It sounds vaguely familiar, like an old poem. The artist, Amy Silver, tells me it was the name of a god the Heaven’s Gate cult leader, Marshall Applewhite, told his followers would save them. 

“Oh, THAT was it,” I say.

(I look it up: Applewhite had said there was a spaceship hidden in the 1997 Hale-Bopp comet. I remember seeing the pristine Nike sneakers of his followers on national television the next day).

The Jonathan Paul wall (curated by Che’ Morales) includes a set of towels embroidered with “denial,” “shame,” “guilt,” and “self pity.”

I talk to Clara Claus and Melissa Godoy Nieto, the two members of the duo Band Practice, which involves hours of on-site drawing in which they respond to each other’s work. 

After a certain number of hours at any art fair, your vision starts to blur and all the art melds together.

I realize it’s time to leave, and on the way out I see four women posing enthusiastically in gas masks. It’s beyond my energy to ask questions anymore.

Frieze Los Angeles continues at the Paramount Pictures Studios (5515 Melrose Ave, Hollywood, Los Angeles) through Sunday, February 16. The Spring/Break Art Show continues at Skylight ROW DTLA  (757 South Alameda Street, Downtown, Los Angeles) through Sunday, February 16.

Susan Coyne is a writer and illustrator based in Los Angeles and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Follow her work at and via @coyneworks on Instagram.

2 replies on “Overheard and Observed at the LA Art Fairs”

  1. I really enjoyed this! Thanks so much for the art fair peek. I had a similar Alex Katz experience on Instagram. An image stopped me dead on a quick scroll and I thought, “Whoah! Some of the new representational artists are really killing it!” before realizing it was a Katz. Not a really old piece, more recent, so I guess maybe my thought was still valid. As was yours!

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