The second edition of Art Platform Los Angeles opened last week with the news that the fair itself was on the block. (Owner Merchandise Mart (MMPI) is shopping a group of art fairs, as first reported by A.i.A.) This news lead some to question its viability in a town that has seen so many art fairs come and go. The gallery roster this year clocked in at a robust 75, holding steady from last year, though big name dealers from last year, including Susanne Vielmetter, Kavi Gupta, Richard Telles and Perry Rubenstein, were absent.
A bad omen was the weekend's shutdown of the 405 freeway between the San Fernando Valley and the 10 freeway in the basin, one of the busiest auto corridors in the world, and an artery that many speculated would affect attendance at the fair, which relocated from downtown to the Barker Hangar in tony Santa Monica.
This didn't stop the likes of Fran Drescher, Neil Patrick Harris, and collectors Susan Hancock and Cliff and Mandy Einstein from showing up to the VIP opening Thursday night. Dealer Anat Ebgi characterized the evening as relaxed but professional. "Many new serious clients have come by," said Ebgi. She presented a solo show of cartoonish paintings by Jay Stuckey.
By piggybacking on the opening of the Getty Research Institute's Pacific Standard Time initiative last year, the fair ensured a strong turnout of national and international collectors, curators, gallerists and art viewers. Though MMPI's press representatives reported 13,500 visitors this year, up from last year's 12,500, there was a general sense from gallerists that fewer collectors had shown up.
The weekend had organizers throwing open the hangar doors to record heat and a private jet sitting on the tarmac, which housed an immersive sound installation by artist Steve Roden. Six small, colorful acrylic abstractions on canvas by Andrew Masullo were caught in a crossfire hung at an open door in direct sunlight outside of Boston gallery Steve Zevitas's booth, located adjacent to the jet's VIP entrance.
The layout of the fair, two hangars and a full 25,000-square-feet larger than last year's venue, felt spacious,The provisional, disjointed layout from 2011 lingered-long stretches of uniformly-sized booths were interspersed with uneven layouts and a few freestanding walls-and the quality of the works from gallery to gallery was inconsistent. Co/Lab, the alternative space section of the fair, curated by Max Presneil, Director of the Torrance Art Museum, had been relegated to an unfortunate, low-ceilinged space near the front of the hangar.
Tokyo's Whitestone gallery sold out of works by Gutai artist Chiyu Uemae during the preview. New Los Angeles gallery Marine Contemporary also sold out of works by Debra Scacco, minimalist topographic maps composed of repetitive micrographic ink text overlaid with translucent washes of gray watercolors priced $1,200–10,000.
Local stalwart Patrick Painter showed works by Belgian artist Rinus Van de Velde, who just closed a solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. The booth, and Van de Velde's concurrent exhibition at Painter's Santa Monica space, contained figurative charcoal drawings of wayward young men in action (jumping fences and performing on stage) and in repose (at a typewriter). Director Soo Jin Jeong fielded sales while Painter himself manned a second booth of works by Ed Ruscha and others. He reported that the gallery had picked up artist Ed Moses.
PRAZ-DELAVALLADE gallery (Paris), filled in a gap in local contemporary works by exhibiting several artists also represented by Vielmetter, including a dark painted work on paper by Edgar Arceneaux and small-scale powdered graphite and pastel text-based drawings by Andrea Bowers. Also strong were a series of black-and-white abstract still life portraits picturing shapely, amalgamated metal sculptures on mirrored surfaces with faded striped backdrops by Brett Cody Rogers. Galleria Repetto (Milan), also played to the local audience, reprising echoes of curator Philipp Kaiser and art historian Miwon Kwon's summer exhibition "Ends of The Earth: Land Art to 1974" at MoCA LA by showing wall collages by Christo and Michael Heizer.
Reactions from gallerists were mixed, ranging from "decent" to "complete disappointment" in terms of business generated. The abundance of canonical California names like Ruscha and Moses signaled that perhaps the fair may be trying to find its identity in secondary market sales, even as it may pass into the hands of a new owner.