Frieze Los Angeles returned in the aftermath of the pandemic for a busy 2022 edition this February. Leading international galleries came together to offer a handful of exceptional artworks to a crowd of American collectors and Hollywood stars alike. But Frieze was not the only major event in town last week. Felix art fair inaugurated its third edition at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on the same day as Frieze, which did not prevent it from becoming a resounding success. This busy art week confirmed the current rush to the West in the American art scene as a growing list of major galleries have opened exhibition spaces in Los Angeles in the last few months and years.
While Frieze’s last edition took place at the Paramount Studios in Hollywood, it was relocated this year in Beverly Hills near the Hilton Hotel, under a white tent built for the occasion. Despite this change of venue and a 40% growth compared with 2020, the fair remained very pleasant and on a human scale. As a matter of fact, it gathered more galleries and visitors than the previous editions of the fair—from 70 to 100 this year. Among them were leading institutions that recorded an important number of million-dollar sales.
Pace sold one of the priciest artworks of the fair: a three-million-dollar, 1.5 meters-high Gazing Ball sculpture by Jeff Koons. In the same price range, David Zwirner presented a series of paintings by Lisa Yuskavage, one of which was acquired for an impressive $1 million alongside a beautiful million-dollar portrait by Alice Neel. A large-scale Baselitz painting representing the artist’s wife was bought for $1.35 million at Thaddaeus Ropac, close to a $1.1 million Robert Rauschenberg canvas.
Last but not least, A tiny portrait by Barkley L. Hendricks—sold for a million dollars by Jack Shainman—and a $1.2 million Beatriz Milhazes canvas presented by White Cube completed the top-end of the sales last week. Meanwhile, David Kordansky organised a marvelous show of new Jonas Wood paintings in its LA gallery, in parallel to his booth at Frieze. The exhibition—which displayed prices up to $3 million dollar—was a landmark event with exceptional works.
But he enthusiasm of the market did not only concern the highest segment of the market, far from it. Indeed, the fair is particulary focused on mid price pieces. According to the exhibitors themselves, the sales skyrocketed for this type of pieces. For instance, a series of new paintings by the renowned sculptor Thomas Housego, one of which was acquired by the LACMA, sold out with prices around $350,000. They were presented by the Belgian gallerist Xavier Hufkens, not far from Sprüth Magers’ booth, which exhibited a window painting by Sterling Ruby that sold for the same amount as Houseago’s paintings. It was presented alongside a beautiful $500,000 George Condo drawing. Young artists from the emerging scene were also very present at the fair. For instance, Nina Chanel Abney and Toyin Ojih Odutola both sold artworks around $200,000 at Jack Shainman’s booth, while Pilar Corrias showed a beautiful—and alas pre-sold—Christina Quarles canvas.
The lower segment of the market was outstandingly dynamic as well in Los Angeles last week. It was even more represented during the Felix art fair, which took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Created by the founders of Morán Morán, it gathered an interesting selection of fellow LA-based galleries within the rooms of the hotel. Most dealers were delighted to show the works of newcomers, thus generating a record-breaking number of sales under the $100,000 and $50,000 ranges.
When Frieze Los Angeles first launched in 2019, a lot of key players in the art world were skeptical about it. Los Angeles was seen as a divided city—mainly due to its size—with a strong yet disseminated collector’s base who would rather go to New York to buy important works. In 2022, the situation has radically changed. A growing number of international galleries are now flocking to Los Angeles such as Lisson, who just announced the opening of a new space in Hollywood. It followed Pace, who had previously announced its merger with LA-based gallery Kayne Griffin. The latter’s current 1,400-square-meter will reopen as a Pace gallery this Spring. As for David Zwirner, the mega-dealer has recently hired the Los Angeles dealer Alexandra Tuttle, following the relocation of the New York partner Robert Goff in the city of angels. While a new space has not been announced yet, the gallery seems to be in the process of creating a new staff there.
These new outposts will join the already thriving LA gallery scene, where other leading actors of the art world have already grown their presence. The first that comes to mind is undoubtedly Hauser & Wirth, which already owns an incredible 9,000-square-meter space in a former factory with a restaurant, a store and a private garden. And yet, Hauser will soon open a second gallery location in West Hollywood next Fall.
This new Los Angeles boom is fueled by the city’s creative scene that includes major native artists from all generations such as James Turrell, Ed Ruscha, Jonas Wood and Christina Quarles to name but a few. Contrary to other art cities in the United States like Miami—which is now in direct competition with the west coast—Los Angeles can boast a higher number of world-leading collections and museums such as the LACMA, the MOCA or the Broad. All the ingredients are here to make a leading art capital.