LOS ANGELES — Felix, the art fair that takes over the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, has fully embraced its reputation as the informal, laid-back alternative to Frieze Los Angeles. At the opening of the show’s fifth iteration yesterday, February 15, every room felt like a tiny party: The pool was filled with alien inflatables by Danish artist Esben Weile Kjaern, and rows of action figures of art world icons designed by Jeffrey Dalessandro in collaboration with A Hug From the Art World were being recognized by the very art dealers that had been miniaturized. At least one Instagram dog happily posed for photos while her owner, an employee of the Black-owned gallery Sow and Tailor, greeted guests entering their room.
Felix welcomed 64 galleries this year, channeling that fun atmosphere right into the artwork brought to their “booths” (which, if you haven’t guessed yet, are simply hotel rooms). Minimalism seems to be officially dead. Now we’re seeing glitter earnestly applied to canvases, complex patterns woven onto tapestries, and explosions of deeply saturated colors that would pair well with Pantone’s color of the year, Viva Magenta, but needs no such corporate seal of approval.
While art galleries dare not utter the word “craft” inside their white cubes, one thing that immediately stood out was the abundance of artworks made with textiles or clay. At One Trick Pony, artist Se Oh was showing his porcelain sculptures made with black clay and volcanic glaze. He explained that his organic, flowering forms were inspired by his night walks. “You’d be surprised by how sinister things look,” Oh said. “All of these [things] are sweet and beautiful in the light, but once the sun’s gone, what’s left of the form is kind of scary.”
Textile works included Christy Matson’s weavings of acrylic and linen mounted to canvas, exhibited by Volume Gallery, based in Chicago; and Oona Brangam-Snell’s “‘Grand Baby Bedding Set” (2018), a hand-woven duvet cover with blue scribbles made by children surrounded by illustrations of Kewpie doll-like figures, presented by Mrs., a gallery based in Queens.
Mrs.’s booth also featured colorful, waffle-gridded chairs by Thomas Barger and a serpentine sculpture by Chris Bogia, “Viper’s Nest (Headboard)” (2023), that transformed Brangam-Snell’s bedding into a full piece of furniture. “We decided to lean into what the fair really is, so we made a facsimile of the hotel room,” Mrs. employee Emily Janowick told Hyperallergic.
The fair was the most crowded I’d ever seen, even though I was at a supposedly exclusive VIP opening. There were long lines for slow elevators, and the hallways accumulated clusters of people waiting to enter packed rooms. I observed plenty of art dealing and name dropping, and very few art outsiders, but Frieze hadn’t opened yet. On Thursday, the art world traverses to the Westside, making room for regular folks in Hollywood.
Even without a full-scale installation, domestic spaces were depicted in many paintings. Though it feels like the pandemic is over, many artists are still emerging from a few years trapped at home, painting their interiors, families, and friends. At Rele Gallery, which spotlights African artists and has locations in Los Angeles and Lagos, Nigeria, David Otaru’s painting “Daydreaming II” (2022) portrayed three men lounging in their borderless interior, bored with their books and basketball, contemplating the new world.
It was Rele Gallery’s first time at Felix. “It just made sense,” Director Adenrele Sonariwo explained. “So that people can know that we’re in the LA community and we want to continue to be here.”
Below are more photos from the fair, which will be running through the weekend.