@Paramount Pictures Studios
February 15 – 17, 2019

FRIEZE LA, a bubble in Los Angeles

What to say what to think about FRIEZE penetrating the Art Community of Los Angeles? certainly many pros and many cons depending on which side of the market you are.

Do Ho Suh at LehmannMaupin

Remember the beginning of FRIEZE

Let’s first remember the very beginning of FRIEZE art Fair in London in 2003. They arrived in a context where the art market in Europe was quite conventional and where the only art fair on the rise was Art Basel in Basel Switzerland. The first years of FRIEZE in London meant a whole new world: “unexpected, young, new, subversive, emerging galleries, performance” were the words with which anyone would defined that new kind of art fair… It was a whole new breeze of fresh air…

What a switch with FRIEZE LA 2019!

Since FRIEZE Masters and FRIEZE NY (2012) Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, have clearly settled an expansion strategy in order to reach 1st the global market and 2nd the richest people in the global market. FRIEZE New York -2012-  was logically the first penetration of the fair in the US in order to reach the 575 billionaires* the USA count (on 2,208 in the World with123 in Germany, 54 in UK, 43 in Italy, 40 in France, 29 in Spain, 2 in Belgium, 374 in China, 7 in the Emirates).

As 144 of these US Billionaires live in California, FRIEZE naturally expands in California. (Florida hosts only 54 billionaires…) they chose LA. Is that a crime to make money off the richest people in the World? Certainly not. If galleries and collectors are ready to overpay everything, this is their problem. Good for FRIEZE…

*source: Forbes, 2018

A bubble custom made for the “LA Bubblers”

The art shown in LA was more international-like-you-see-at-all-the-art-fair-in-the world than provocative or subversive. International Art Fairs must balance their art proposals: they need to have a little bit of new galleries to create a fresh brand new buzz around such artist or such gallery and they need to keep reassuring their International Collectors with the same art they already purchased in order to notice the rise of their artist.

This population of international Art Collectors go from the Venice Biennial to Art Basel Miami, Art Basel Switzerland and Art Basel Hong Kong to ARCO or the FIAC and eventually Bogota for the excitement -Los Angeles was the missing place in that worldwide art fair tour.

That small world of rich globe trotters/collectors/jet setters
stay between each other, and know everything about each other, where they go, what they own at what price etc… and each one wants to purchase as big, as expensive as the other one and so on… They make the market and create their own Bubble. Let’s call them “Bubblers”. An Art Fair is the perfect place to expand such social scheme. Indeed good for FRIEZE.

Mark Manders at Tanya Bonakdar gallery

A new business model put at test in LA

FRIEZE took the opportunity of their new LA location to try a new business model. According to Janelle Zara in ARTNET, « For the first time, Frieze is implementing a four-tiered pricing structure across the fair. The price per square foot increases with booth size: a square foot of the smallest booth goes for less than 50 percent of that in the largest. An 859-square-foot booth, like Hauser & Wirth’s, for example, is priced at close to $80,000, while 10 smaller booths in the $10,000 range have been reserved for emerging to mid-sized LA galleries, including Commonwealth & Council, Hannah Hoffman, The Pit, and Anat Ebgi. Unlike in New York and London, where emerging galleries appear at Frieze under the “Frame” and “Focus” banners, respectively, the LA edition will not have sections.”

The galleries were no longer selected according to their curating proposal but co-opted by a jury from FRIEZE.

The public had to book and pay at least two months in advance to visit either the outside or the inside for a two-hour visit on a given day and time… such a constraint apparently for safety reason. Anyone who wanted to come last minute couldn’t

El Anatsui at Jack Shainman gallery

Gigantic art, gigantic prices

The common denominator of the art shown at FRIEZE LA this season was “GIGANTIC” with paintings 6 feet high and more because billionaires own palazzi with high ceilings and museum like to buy large. Buying huge paintings flatters the ego of those who do it, those who sell it, those who buy it and those who organize the event. Everybody is happy … unless the collector makes a confusion between large/pricy and good work.

Claire Tabouret at Night Gallery
Gillian Wearing at Regen Projects

SUCCESSFUL OF COURSE! Despite the rain the global art collectors came. FRIEZE sold out and the galleries sold quite well. Good for them all. It was a delight to see the Fair but it left behind a bitter after taste that would translate like that: FRIEZE arrived as a tsunami with an extremely well-oiled international organization that came to take money from “our” Californian collectors and went back to do it elsewhere. Well done and pretty nice bubble indeed…

Beatrice Chassepot

Tony Cragg
Secundino Hernandez at Victoria Miro