A look at the Los Angeles scene: Mat Gleason’s perspective on the recent editions of Frieze and Alac

Gajin Fujita / Ghost Rider, 2018 / spray paint, paint markers, 12k white gold and 24k gold on six wood panels / 60 x 108 in. (152.4 x 274.3 cm) Courtesy LA Louver Gallery, Los Angeles

THE BEST:

1. Vielmetter booth soloing Kim Dingle

2. LA Louver booth soloing Gaijin Fujita

3. The lone Warhol painting I saw in the whole fair was a portrait of Judy Garland done as a one off gift to Liza Minelli from Andy – consigned by Liza to Pace Gallery it could be yours for $4.5 Million.

4. A small Philip Guston of a Klansman with a gun, rare for the absence of pink which is only visible as an undercoat.

5. The Frieze gallery tent was smaller than the NY and London Frieze fairs, but it was mercifully free of those stupid sections that art fairs do (one year it was artists from the 1970s, so contrived, half the blue chip art world was from the 70s). The sectional booths are famously tiny and you’ve got the gallerist with a chair and a pile of collateral material and two people looking at something and nobody else can fit in the booth, what a croc, what a waste. Frieze LA had a simple winning formula: Everyone had a nice sized booth and let it rip. No forced themes.

6. Half the fair is secondary market stuff like John McCracken and the other half is artists walking around today that the galleries represent. A good balance.

7. People waiting in line for an hour for coffee or booze and I walked to the Paramount store on the lot where there is a Coffee Bean & TeaLeaf and had the best hot chocolate ever and was back on the floor in 20 minutes, refreshed.

8. No Koons, no Hirst (okay a forgettable one), no Kaws, and only one Peter Halley!

9. They hand you a free large bottled water if you walk in thru the VIP entry line even if you do by accident like I did.

10. Despite being so massive it was like wow efficient getting in and getting around.

Damien Hirst, Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Right) 1991 / Ph. Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

THE WORST: 

1. It’s a clubby little art world so you wonder how some of the scrub galleries got in the door. Daddy runs Paramount? Friends of Bettina? A few headscratchers who don’t buy full page ads in ArtForum with of course, lame wannabe trendy booths, subpar for this smart set.

2. You could walk thru the fair with a good comedian and have endless material.

3. Product, product, product – conceptual? political? controversial? 

Nope, nope and nope.

4. When you know the person in the booth doesn’t know shit about art like you do and you can’t do a fucking thing about it as you would appear to be a crazy man if you said your peace so you just look up at the ceiling of the fair tent and walk to the next booth.

5. Coldest, wettest month of the year, even in the desert, but its between the Oscars and the Grammies so “everyone” is in town.

Overall it was a good vibe, probably the best fair that has ever occurred in Los Angeles. You either like fairs or you don’t, I’m not on a crusade either way, there was art to see and people to look at, it was near the tippy top of the pyramid and if that bugs you at least you could see your enemy face to face, what the fuck more do you want?

ALAC 2019, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles / Joakim Ojanen, Octopus ballin’ on home stone with little guest, 2018 – Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

The ALAC fair only reaffirmed my loathing of art that pretends to be outsider art but has its MFA at the ready. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot be an erudite member of the qualified club AND howl to the establishment “Lookit me and my first ancounter wiff a paintbrush I think I will paint me a piggly wiggly and other simple things”. Second on the list are the technique whores – “Lookit me, i do this one trick with the brush, cool right, you never seen that before because i am unique with my technique, and I do it again and again and again and in blue and then in yellow and oh oh oh look, look at this one, iss in black and white cuz i’m also a modernist if you collect that!”. 

The fair swayed between booths that were overhung to booths that oozed authenticity by having only a few things in them and lots of space around. Of course, when you are showing deskilled painting of pink blobs and bright green drippy splashes, emulating lean minimalist discourse is pretentious and, hey, stupid. The booths with crappy sloppy college art orgy fuckaround stuff that were crammed to the gills and reveled in the irony of the nosepickers being feted by the establishment – those were the most successful.

ALAC 2019, Functional Art gallery, Berlin, Anna Aagaard Jensen – ph. Alice Zucca XIBT mag

There were a few elegant booths with some nice work, nothing so memorable that you felt art history stabilize beneath your feet and then sway toward a new direction, but, frankly and positively, better than the last few iterations of this fair, three years ago being the nadir of all time when the blurry absloption paintings and plop-turdian ceramic sculptures were everywhere, literally all but three booths were the same market-ready ambiguities of passionless poop.

This year, a diversity of approaches. Shit is selling in a hot market these days and nothing was too radical or experimental (oh yeah sure, edgy for 1987 all the way but otherwise all safe and “good” product). So a mild improvement and a smaller ALAC with many mainstays graduating to Frieze and Felix fairs is okay, not necessarily worth the $49 uber round trip and a few people coughing on me complaining of their colds who will be revealed if I come down with something in the next few days. The $12 pressed juice didn’t change my life either but people assured me the food was good this time.

Mat Gleason

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Night Gallery – Claire Tabouret, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Night Gallery – Claire Tabouret, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, 303 Gallery – Doug Aitken, New York. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Lisson Gallery, London, New York. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Sadie Coles HQ, London. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Sadie Coles HQ, London. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

FRIEZE Art Fair LOS ANGELES 2019, Sadie Coles HQ – Ugo Rondinone, London. + 303 Gallery – Doug Aitken, New York Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019, Marinaro, New York. Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019 Art Los Angeles Contemporary Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag

ALAC 2019, Ever Gold Gallery, San Francisco Ph. Alice Zucca XIBT Mag