About a hundred years ago, movie executives discovered California’s magic sunlight, relative absence of labor regulations and pleasant ocean views: Los Angeles was picked as the location of choice to shoot pictures. Ever since, a steady stream of hopeful, driven and adventurous people has been fuelling the city of Angels, transforming it into a fertile ground for cultural initiatives.
Hence, it seems only logical for Exhibitionary to chose LA as its third US and eleventh altogether location! From now on, you can check out, select, and visit the city’s most thrilling exhibitions thanks to our app.
So anyway, what – and who – is it that makes LA’s art world exciting?
While the lack of a real collector base keeps coming up as an issue in many discussions, the Hollywoodian glamour & Californian coolness that suffuses the city often seem like two good enough arguments to settle in it. From West to East, it is dotted with a large number of galleries, institutions and project spaces that sometimes fit, often play with and at other times contradict the cliché of LA as shallow, glitzy bonfire of vanities, half-way between a Bret Easton Ellis novel and that cringy “Samantha-goes-shopping-on-Rodeo-Drive” scene in the first Sex and the City movie.
In fact, let’s start our tour a stone’s throw away from where that unrealistic episode is supposed to take place. Arguably the most famous of all mega-galleries, Gagosian’s premises are located in the retro-rich Beverly Hills, where capitalism has been on steroids for quite some time. In an unsurprisingly gigantic garage-type space, Gagosian shows some of today’s most sought-after – and sometimes overrated artists. Currently, none other than Damien Hirst has works on view there, which seems like an ideal fit for the crowds able to spend their film industry money on a secure investment.
Driving down south (yes, you’ll have to do this by car), make a stop in the so-called “Art District,” (not to be confused with the Arts District downtown), a truly American concept in which violent branding is applied to a series of warehouses and strip malls, taking them from sad urban voids to edgy meccas of contemporary art. It’s home to three great galleries: Blum & Poe, Honor Fraser, and Luis de Jesus are all located there. At Blum & Poe by the way, a fantastic exhibition by pascALEjandro – the pseudonym chosen by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky for their common practice – is about to close. Their vivid, surrealist works on paper are a testament to artistic collaboration and should not be missed.
Next, we suggest heading to David Kordansky’s Mid-Wilshire warehouse. There, a mysterious show by Shahryar Nashat, bathed in an icy light and successfully interrogating the digital fragmentation of bodies, is on view til the end of March. Next to it, a series of soothing abstractions by Markus Amm achieves to balance out the pleasant sting triggered by Nashat’s work without erasing it. On the way to Kordansky and depending on your willingness to take detours, you can visit either Sprüth Magers or Karma International, both hailing from Old Europe, already solidly anchored in the city’s cultural landscape, each managed by a duo of powerhouse women and offering not only good art but also interesting takes on the exhibition space as a concept itself.
After that, you shouldn’t be too far away from AA|LA, which is smaller, younger and shows less established artists than the galleries mentioned so far. Currently on view are works by the aptly named painter Zach Storm, in which he explores the convergence between light, landscape and time; the exhibition is hypnotic and reminiscent of a very cinematographic type of darkness: things such as sunsets, misty rainbows, and scorched earth come to mind.
Proceed towards Hollywood, where two popular spaces have chosen to settle. A famed one is certainly Freedman Fitzpatrick, who recently opened a Paris outpost and whose program, like an early Sophia Coppola movie, is thick with cool and desirable names. Among them are photographer Lucie Stahl; sculptor Mathis Altman, sound artist Hannah Weinberger, and painter Vittorio Brodmann, whose exhibition “Two Birds, Two Stones” opens Sunday, March 4.
Before venturing into Freedman Fitzpatrick’s delightfully understated premises, make sure to check out Overduin and Co.; they currently exhibit a terrifying video by Will Benedict, in which species merge, dolphins demystify our food chain, a pizza recipe leads to psychosis and Charlie Rose interviews a nonchalant creature between Predator and cuttlefish. Angst meets clarity and post-internet aesthetics in this stimulating display of digital doom, on view until March 10.
It might now be time to grab an overpriced juice tasting of mowed grass and head towards Downtown, where a second art district has started taking shape, to much opposition from locals. In between coffee roasters and cavernous restaurants serving 30 dollar crudo, Hauser & Wirth have created an almost museum-like space; its opening in 2016 was deservingly much-discussed and celebrated. In three exquisite exhibition spaces, the Swiss franchise de luxecurrently shows new canvases by Mark Bradford, poignant works on paper by Louise Bourgeois and a mini-retrospective of the celebrated Romanian art trickster Geta Brătescu.
Not far away, Ghebaly Gallery also offers visitors appealing content. The current group show “The Pain of Others,” curated by Myriam Ben Salah, explores the ability to feel and illustrate someone else’s trauma; empathy has indeed become a rare currency in a world constantly shaken by violence. The exhibition includes works by Diamond Stingily, Arthur Jafa, Julien Ceccaldi and Andra Ursuta, among others. It pays to spend a day in the area: next to these two spaces, many others have chosen the area as home. Ibid, Maccarone, Night Gallery, Nicodim and 356 Mission, the non-profit run by Laura Owens, are close-by and worth a visit.
If you still have the energy, drive back east to MacArthur Park, which constitutes a good contrast to the aseptic Beverly Hills. Here, streets are lively and galleries not easy to find for those visiting for the first time. With Commonwealth & Council, Bad Reputation as well as House of Gaga and Reena Spaulings’ common venture, it is home to three excellent spaces showing radical and often urgent practices.
You might be tired by now and in the mood for a cup of precious cold brew at Intelligentsia; heading towards the ultra-hip Silver Lake, take a chance and have a look at Garden, founded only a year ago and located in a chlorophyll-colored bungalow in Angelino Heights. If exhibitions relating to the ever-fascinating proprieties of nature are your thing, Garden might be a hot tip. In “A Curious Herbal,” six artists “investigate varying approaches to botanical representation”; quite a refreshing take on exhibition and art making, literally and figuratively. Hurry up though, as the exhibition closes Saturday, March 3.
March 6 also marks the start of LA’s own gallery sharing initiative. Three local ones – Hannah Hoffmann, Kristina Kite and Park View/Paul Soto – will be hosting nine like-minded spaces on their premises. Among them are Pristina’s Lambdalambdalambda; Tokyo’s Misako & Rosen; Mexico City’s Lulu; New York’s Callicoon Fine Arts; and Düsseldorf’s Max Mayer. The idea has already been fruitful in London, New York, and the Rhineland; whether it can be successful in Los Angeles, where gallery hopping can be a much more arduous enterprise than in dense areas such as the cities mentioned above, remains to be seen.
Enough about galleries now: LA is also a great place to visit museums. With the Hammer, MOCA, and LACMA, the city can pride itself on three institutions of world renown. A visit to MOCA’s small yet fabulous display from its permanent collection would be enough to justify the city’s reputation as a hub for contemporary art: One simply cannot not gasp when suddenly confronted with the Chamberlain, Rothkos, Krasner, Louis or Nevelsons on view.
The same goes for the Hammer, where a set of shows, chiefly the challenging group exhibitions “Stories of Almost Everyone” and “Unspeakable: Atlas, Kruger, Walker: Hammer Contemporary Collection,” convince with conceptual thoroughness and curatorial refinement. Oh, and on top of that, entry to the museum is free.
Last but not least, recent years have brought the city two private ventures with international scope. The Broad and the Marciano Foundation, both of which seem to benefit from almost unlimited funding and a fearless vision, appeal to large crowds, both with their program and atypical, sexy architecture: the Broad’s Diller Scofidio + Renfro UFO currently houses a breathtaking Jasper Johns show, and in the Marciano Foundation’s 1960s Masonic temple, Olafur Eliasson shall attract visitors beyond the traditional art world crowd.
What we’ve mentioned so far constitutes only a drop in an ocean of attractive exhibition spaces, some of which are deeply linked to the artistic developments LA has been central to since the 1960s. It therefore didn’t come as a surprise when Frieze announced it had settled on the city for its new fair, which is set to take place in roughly a year at the Paramount Picture Studios. Rumors had been sizzling for quite some time, and some local curators, event organizers and museum employees had already been (not so) discreetly contacted by Frieze over the last couple of months, fuelling the fire even further.
You see, LA’s art world is boiling, but high temperatures have always fitted the city. With Exhibitionary, you can now navigate these torrid waters even better than before.
We hope you’ll enjoy it!
– Karim Crippa