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UP FRONT: ART

One opening after another

L.A.'s stars align in the form of four art fairs -- but how do you see them all?

January 19, 2006|Scarlet Cheng | Special to The Times

SOMETIMES, more is more. Or at least that's what the organizations behind Art Week Plus are hoping.

In a region relatively sparse on art fairs, four are taking place over the next 11 days, beginning tonight with photo l.a. at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Wednesday, the Los Angeles Art Show opens at the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, followed by artLA in Santa Monica the next day and the Los Angeles Fine Print Fair at LACMA West the day after.

Though the fairs have taken place before, this is the first time they've aligned -- to create greater buzz. Indeed, organizers point to Art Basel Miami Beach, the December happening that has made the Florida city an international destination for arty types and those who want to see and be seen.

Each fair has its own opening gala, designed as much for hobnobbing as art viewing. And along with pushing Rubenses and Rauschenbergs, promoters are touting the celebrity angle, with Diane Keaton hosting tonight's photo l.a. reception.

"We looked at the Miami model," says Kim Martindale, producer of the Los Angeles Art Show for a decade. "Several fairs are going on at the same time as Art Basel Miami -- NADA, Pulse, Scope -- and they've created great excitement. We thought, 'That's what L.A. should have.' "

Stephen Cohen, organizer of photo l.a. and artLA, agrees, especially as he sees the fairs catering to different tastes. "I don't think we're in competition. We complement each other."

But with all the receptions, seminars and proliferation of art, how does one navigate the next two weeks? Here's a guide to the shows, along with comments and tips from insiders who've trod the fairgrounds before.

photo l.a.

With about 70 dealers, photo l.a. stakes a claim as the largest photography art expo in the United States, and also one of the longest-running art fairs in this fickle city. Both are testament to the burgeoning interest in collecting photography, as well as the growing numbers of specialized dealers.

"We're proud this is the 15th year of the fair," says organizer Cohen. "We've reduced the number of exhibitors so that some could get larger booths for contemporary work."

Expect to find works by such stars as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus as well as contemporaries such as Tseng Kwong Chi and Loretta Lux. Photographers Lucien Clergue and Martin Parr will give lectures, and Philippe Garner of Christie's will moderate a panel on collecting.

The insider's view:

Arthur Ollman

Director, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego

It always invigorates me to go there because it shows me there are huge numbers of people who are passionate about the same stuff that I am. It helps me understand the scope of the photographic world.

Fairs are a good place to start your collection. You can buy something for $500 or something for $50,000 -- and what the dealers don't carry with them, they can usually get. The good ones, of course.

Los Angeles Art Show

Billed as "five centuries of art," this fair is in its 11th year. Participating are about 50 galleries, mostly from California, such as L.A.'s Louis Stern and Jack Rutberg, but also from elsewhere in the U.S., such as New York's Jane Kahan and Nancy Hoffman.

Most of the art will be perennial favorites -- still lifes, landscapes and seascapes, and American regional -- although there is an increased contemporary presence.

To that end, there will be several not-for-sale art installations by artists from the Brewery, the Santa Fe Art Colony and Pharmaka. Lectures and seminars are included in the price of admission, and are as varied as a presentation on David Alfaro Siqueiros by Gregorio Luke, director of the Museum of Latin American Art, and a look at the art of quality picture frames by frame-maker Jerry Solomon.

The insider's view:

Patricia Hamilton

Art consultant

It's one of the top 10 art fairs in the country. Art fairs have permanently changed the ways dealers do business. Everyone saves their best things for art fairs -- they want to put their best foot forward -- so you can see great things at fairs.

If you're not sure whether you're paying the right price for something, there are two online services, AskART [www.askart.com] and artnet [www.artnet.com]. You have to subscribe, but they provide a great service: They show auction prices. Of course, if you find something in a gallery, you're going to pay a little more. There could also be differences in quality [of works by the same artist].

artLA

For the X factor -- the unexpected -- this is the fair to hit. There will be 70 dealers featuring contemporary mixed media, video, digital work and maybe even a few paintings and drawings. Most of the dealers hail from the two U.S. coasts, but there will be an international presence with Stockholm's Wetterling, London's Keith Talent and Paris' Deborah Zafman.

In addition, there will be 10 invitational art projects, and an educational program starting with a seminar led by Deborah Mcleod, director of Gagosian Gallery, on Jan. 28.

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