Last year, the first International Contemporary Art Fair in Los Angeles faced competition: the event, modeled after prestigious European and American forerunners, opened just as two of the city's most prominent museums were creating a cacophony of their own.
With weeks of black-tie receptions and previews, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art christened a new modern and contemporary art wing and the Museum of Contemporary Art opened a new, permanent site. About 20 galleries unveiled new exhibits at the same time too.
As a result, media attention and attendance at the art fair wasn't what organizers had anticipated. But the way seems clear this year, and backers are hoping for bigger crowds and thus increased sales the second time around.
Also known as ART/LA87--part trade show, part art exhibition--the fair will bring to the Los Angeles Convention Center contemporary fine art from 170 top commercial galleries in 54 cities around the world. It runs Dec. 10-14, and the fair's art dealers are expected to display everything from Neo-Geo paintings to Pop art prints by about 1,200 artists. Organizers say individual artworks are expected to sell for about $90 to $1 million apiece.
Major European galleries scheduled to exhibit at the fair promise works by Georg Baselitz from Germany, Tony Cragg from England and Christian Boltanski from France. Top American artists on the slate include Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine, Willem de Kooning, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Elizabeth Murray, David Hockney, Donald Judd and Susan Rothenberg. Artists from Australia and Spain, emerging as important art centers, will also be represented, and 45 seminars led by an international roster of speakers are planned.
"You can see under one roof what's new and what's exciting in contemporary art not just locally or nationally, but worldwide," said Brian Angel, organizing the fair for the London firm of Andry Montgomery, specialists in producing cultural and trade events.
The quality of art at last year's first Los Angeles contemporary art fair "equalled or outclassed the quality of that seen at any other art fair," wrote London Times art critic Marina Vaizey, and "she's been to them all," said Angel, citing similar, longer-established events in Chicago, Paris, Cologne, Basel, Madrid and London.
The quality of art this year "will equal or surpass what was seen before," Angel claimed, adding that he thinks the 1987 show, one day longer than its predecessor, will be more broadly based, with about 20 countries instead of 15 represented, and about 30 more galleries included.
The total number of California galleries scheduled to participate is about 60, Angel said. but not everyone in the Los Angeles art scene will take part in the fair. Some of the city's most prominent art dealers are among those who say they won't go. (The Times lists about 100 galleries in Los Angeles County alone.)
Among those scheduled to participate are the Rosamund Felsen, Gemini G.E.L., Jan Baum, L.A. Louver, Margo Leavin and Cirrus galleries. Directors at the latter three--Peter Goulds, Margo Leavin and Jean Milant--are among nine top dealers from the United States and Europe on a "galleries committee" charged with selecting this year's other exhibitors, subject to final approval by Angel and his staff.
But while the roster of exhibitors may change by Dec. 10, among those establishments now absent from it are the James Corcoran Gallery, considered by many to be Los Angeles' top showroom, the BlumHelman Gallery, exhibiting such blue chip artists as Robert Rauschenberg, the Daniel Weinberg Gallery, and the HoffmanBorman Gallery, which on Saturday was scheduled to place on view new works by the controversial Julian Schnabel.
James Corcoran, owner of the gallery that bears his name, said this week by phone from New York that he "just never goes to art fairs," and an assistant to BlumHelman Gallery director Irving Blum, unavailable for comment, said, "Irving just didn't seem interested."
However, Daniel Weinberg, director of the Daniel Weinberg Gallery, and Stuart Regen, director of the HoffmanBorman showroom, cited problems with the fair that cropped up last year--or new criticisms--as among their reasons for staying away.
"I'm all for the fair," but the problem is that (Los Angeles members of) the galleries committee aren't working hard enough to encourage local gallery participation, contends Regen, meaning specifically that discounts on convention center exhibition booths are not being offered by fair organizers to L.A. dealers.
The price of a booth is $21.50 per square foot, up from $18 last year. The average total cost, including telephone and cleaning services among others, is about $8,000 per gallery, Angel said, plus fees for transportation--particularly high for distant galleries. Last year, total expenditures per exhibitor ran from around $5,000 to $40,000. These costs are in line with those of other fairs, Angel said.