This week, our columnist draws on his LA gallery experience to chart the pitfalls of Frieze’s potential westward expansion.
On Thursday, Charlotte Burns and Allan Schwartzman reported in Art Agency, Partners’s “In Other Words” newsletter that “the Frieze Art Fair is looking to launch a Los Angeles event in January 2019.” A Frieze rep responded to further inquiries with this coy statement: “We are always exploring new ideas and discussing ways to respond to galleries’ needs but we can’t speak to any specific plans at this point.” Translation: Book it.
Except, with all due respect to Frieze, you probably shouldn’t book a trip to LA quite yet. Because experience says that not many other people in the industry are likely to, either.
The upshot is this: Los Angeles is a great place to make art. It can be a great place to see art, especially at museums and smaller nonprofits off the beaten path. (Shouts to The Underground Museum, Art + Practice, and LAXART.) But a legit art scene and a self-sustaining art market are two separate things. Los Angeles checks one of those two boxes. It doesn’t yet check the other.
That’s why so many art fairs have failed there already. And it’s why, if I were Frieze, I’d re-evaluate the wisdom of wagon-training west.