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Art For The Under-30 Crowd

September 24, 2000|HEATHER JOHN

Connecting with the hip, the happening and the culturally curious is Billy Fong's mission as art consultant and coordinator for Muse (the young affiliates group) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Sure, his parties are inspired, but where Muse really hits its high note is in demystifying the often-elite world of art for the young collector.

Q. What purpose do LACMA's art walks serve?

A. We've always done an annual art walk in Santa Monica near Bergamot Station. This year I thought, "Why don't we start it here at LACMA and highlight the wonderful galleries in our neighborhood--on Wilshire, La Brea, Beverly and Fairfax?" And we added a panel discussion that morning to answer questions with Howard Fox, one of LACMA's curators; Michele DePuy-Leavitt, who teaches a course at UCLA Extension called "Exploring the Los Angeles Art Scene"; and Charles Mitchell, CEO of the FrameStore. We thought that instead of having gallery owners, an unbiased panel would sound less like a bunch of used-car dealers. They could answer all of those questions, such as, "If you buy something, do you get the frame?"

Q. Do you?

A. Most of the time. But if you don't want the frame, you can negotiate a little off the price.

Q. How much negotiating is appropriate?

A. I would never go into Banana Republic and see a $59 sweater and say, "I'll give you $45 for it." Yet most people know that you can bargain at a flea market. But there's something about galleries. It's almost like walking into Gucci. You're scared that if you aren't wearing something nice they'll be rude to you. Galleries are inviting places where people can buy and appreciate art. Of course, if you walk into a gallery the very first time and you haven't established a relationship, it's not always in the best taste to haggle for price. After you've established a relationship, galleries often offer a "courtesy price" for being a good patron.

Q. Do I need to wear all black to be taken seriously?

A. If you want to be taken seriously as a collector, don't walk in with flip-flops and a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt. I'm not saying you have to go in there in vintage Yves Saint Laurent or a Prada suit, but you should pay it the respect it deserves. Of course there's that artsy look, but it's also about the city you live in. In New York it's usually a sea of black--girls that work at galleries, investment bankers, people who look sedate. Here it's about a scene.

Q. What constitutes the L.A. art scene?

A. L.A. is in a weird stage of its art evolution. You have the Getty, LACMA and MOCA all doing some great shows, but Los Angeles is never going to be New York. It doesn't need to try to be. I see the Silver Lake/Los Feliz area and downtown, with all the new lofts being built, as an emerging art center. More than anything else, it takes a few people who are really ambitious, your Mary Boones, your Holly Solomons, who will push the envelope a little.

Q. How should L.A. go about pushing the envelope?

A. I would love to see someone in this town start a salon series of sorts, to do smaller-scale parties, for example, 100 people at some warehouse gallery space. You could have directors and architects and fashion designers and artists, and there's a real, actual dialogue going on about the arts. I think that this is the year for art and fashion in L.A. We just need a few people to mobilize everyone to make us a beacon on the cultural map. The talent is here.

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