C ooperation is the word of the moment in the local gallery scene, which is gearing up for the "Los Angeles International Invitational," a citywide effort in which 40 galleries will play host to works from international artists and galleries in March.
And other acts of cooperation are popping up too, such as galleries beginning to work together on exhibitions and curating shows in each others' spaces, as well as the organizing of this week's two-night "WinterFest," in which 27 galleries will unite for joint openings and special events.
"Rather than just sitting around and crying about the recession, it was time we got together to do something about it," said dealer Robert Berman, a co-organizer of the international festival.
"Before the recession hit, L.A. was really a contender to being an important fine-art city. But now that's been taken back, and . . . our art fair . . . has had its problems (in prompting international attention). So we wanted to see what we could do to make Los Angeles more like New York or Boston. We have an identity problem here with everybody thinking we don't have the best on the cultural scene, and now we need to work together to show that we do."
The festival, planned as a biennial event, will feature artists from Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Cuba, England, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Spain, Sweeden and Switzerland, with each local gallery playing host to one or more international dealers and artists for a monthlong period beginning March 11.
Organizers hope to attract collectors and curators from throughout the country, as well as revitalize the scene for local gallery-goers. Special events are planned, including seminars and tours for out-of-town visitors of top L.A. private collections, and special attention is being paid to getting the word out to more than just the Southern California art world.
Although a few high-powered names, most notably Margo Leavin, G. Ray Hawkins, Rosamund Felsen and Fahey/Klein, are not among the 40 participating local galleries, the list includes such respected venues as James Corcoran, Gemini G.E.L., Manny Silverman, L.A. Louver and Earl McGrath.
"The real interplay here is between the galleries, because it's true that we are all struggling for that same buck in theory, but the serious galleries are really into education and teaching people about collecting art, serious art," Berman said.
As for "WinterFest," the 27 members of the Los Angeles Art Galleries banding together this week include galleries in West Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, downtown and Beverly Hills, such as Jan Baum, Fahey/Klein, Newspace, Daniel Saxon, Thomas Solomon's Garage, Space, Sue Spaid and Louis Stern. The two-day series of openings, wine tastings, jazz concerts, poetry readings and performance art takes place Wednesday and Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. Information: (213) 933-5557.
Other examples of local cooperation include "L.A. Stories," an exhibition opening Wednesday at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts featuring works by 40 artists dealing with Los Angeles as subject matter. That show took the cooperation of 15 additional galleries, thus giving Rutberg a museum-quality roster including Peter Alexander, Carlos Almaraz, John Baldessari, Karen Carson, Richard Diebenkorn, Laddie John Dill, Judy Fiskin, Llyn Foulkes, D. J. Hall, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg, Erika Rothenberg, Ed Ruscha, Alexis Smith, Mitchell Syrop, Masami Teraoka, John Valadez, Jeffrey Vallance and Christopher Williams. The show runs through Feb. 27.
And in a different kind of union, Sue Spaid has ventured outside her Beverly Boulevard gallery to co-curate (with Michael Anderson) "Appraising the Preternatural," with works by nine artists including Emily Cheng, Jeff Gambill and Lari Pittman. The show is at Santa Monica's Patricia Shea Gallery through Feb. 27.
GALLERY SHUFFLES: Despite such efforts to band together, however, numerous changes, good and bad, continue to proliferate on the local gallery scene.
The good news is that the Manny Silverman Gallery is more than doubling its space. It will leave its La Cienega Boulevard home of five years and take up residence Feb. 15 at 619 N. Almont Drive, the space recently vacated by the Stuart Regen Gallery, which plans to operate a roving exhibitions program. Despite the impending move, Silverman will open a show of paintings by Michael Goldberg at the La Cienega space on Wednesday, then move that show directly to the new space. The opening reception in the Almont gallery will be for English artist William Tillyer on March 12, as part of the L.A. International.