The Frieze Los Angeles art fair kicked off Thursday morning with an early VIP breakfast at the Museum of Flying. Taking place at the adjacent Santa Monica Airport this year, the fair is Frieze’s largest presentation in LA to date, with more than 120 participating galleries representing 22 countries. Thirty-five thousand participants are expected over four days for a program that also includes Frieze Project’s outdoor, site-specific installations and sculptures in addition to a particularly robust focus section, spotlight new artists.
But first: avocado toast with shiitake bacon under a lemon yellow, 50s era biplane hanging from the ceiling. With its open-air, warehouse-like feel, and vintage airplanes and flying ephemera – who knew TWA flight attendants wore Valentino in the 1970s?! — the museum gave Frieze’s opening morning an airy, languid feel.
Which quickly turned into a festive, art fair frenzy. Properly stuffed, fair-minded VIPs made their way to the Kulapat Yantrasast-designed exhibition marquee, which opened its doors for an invite-only preview at 10. It soon filled up with major artists (Charles Gaines, Alex Israel, Doug Aitken), museum directors (LACMA’s Michael Govan, The Broad’s Joanne Heyler), longtime patrons (Lynda Resnick, Edythe Broad), curators (Hans Ulrich Obrist, Joy Simmons ) and art-enthusiastic celebrities (such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson, Catherine Keener, Margot Robbie, Lionel Ritchie, Jared Leto and John McEnroe).
If Santa Monica Airport provided the runway for Frieze’s Day One launch, then the swarm of colorfully dressed, art-passionate attendees was the wind beneath their wings. Here are some of the Faces of Frieze.
RF Jefferies, a collector from San Diego, is dressed “head to toe in Balenciaga,” he says. “The only thing that isn’t the jewelry – it’s Tiffany’s!” Frieze, for him, is a way to support the art scene in Los Angeles. “I am here as a collector. I grew up here. So I try to support hometown institutions, and then I see a lot of people from out of town, out of the country.”
Paige Haran, left, and Rebecka Jackson, right, run the New York and Mexico City-based curatorial collective “Grandma.” They curate exhibitions primarily for social justice, explains Jackson at Ochi Gallery’s stand. Frieze is “an ideal time,” she says, to meet artists, collectors and others who might be interested in getting behind the causes they support. “Everybody’s here, everybody’s flying in, so you don’t have to chase people around the country, you can set up a bunch of meetings at once,” she says. “And of course it’s always exciting to see new artists and what’s happening in the art world.”
Racquel Chevremont, a New York-based curator and art advisor, has planted artwork as part of the set design for the “Sex and the City” sequel “And Just Like That…”, among other TV shows. She is drawn to the Focus section of Frieze, she says, because it is a place to discover new, emerging artists. “New talent. And see if there’s anyone doing something different, she says at the Sperone Westwater stand (not part of the Focus section). “Everyone is influenced by someone, but maybe there is someone who really comes out with their own voice. And that’s what I’m looking for.”
Cristopher Cichocki is the co-founder of the Palm Springs-based arts organization Elemental, which is focused on “the environment, land art and bio art,” he says, standing by a huge, multicolored Olafur Eliasson wall installation in LA’s Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. He came to Frieze, in part, because “potentially it’s a curatorial relationship and to align synergies with like-minded artists. This is meant to be cutting edge. If you get one takeaway, it’s worth the day.”
Writer-curator Mebrak Tareke—a former New Yorker now living in Mexico City who has never been to Frieze before—spends a lot of time thinking about “the whole global side of things” in the art world, she says, posing in front of a Jeremy Moon works at Luhring Augustine. Meaning: social, art market and aesthetic trends and how they change. Things change, she says. “I think there is a tension between what curators and artists want and what the market wants. And I think the two manage to come together somehow. It’s probably a good time to be black and an artist. But more can be done when it comes to Asian artists – more representation.”
Today is Nya Serano’s very first Frieze fair, says the San Francisco-based abstract painter. What is her first impression? “Oh my God, it’s crazy. It’s just a lot. But I feel really inspired. Everywhere you look, there is art!” she says. Among other things on the face, which she has painted today with tiny, cheetah paw print-like circles on the eyelids. “I kind of try to add something from my paintings on myself, whenever I can,” she says. “I use makeup around my eyes to make prints.”
Keiko Sakamoto-Witte, a Laguna Beach-based collector who sits on the board of the Orange County Museum of Art, is usually drawn to color. But part of the fun of art fairs, she says, is the element of surprise. Barely an hour into the fair, she and her husband, William Witte, bought a monochromatic bronze sculpture, by Goro Kakei, from Japan’s Taka Ishii Gallery. “Sometimes we’re surprised by things we’ve never seen,” she says. “And we just fell in love with the sculpture, and we took it.”
Longtime Newport Beach-based collector Demetrio Kerrison is a Frieze regular – in New York, in London and in LA. He has attended all of Frieze’s Los Angeles iterations. This year he is particularly excited about work by Michaela Yearwood-Dan at London’s Tiwani Contemporary. The large, vibrant abstract paintings feature ceramic flower petals. Kerrison is as fascinated by the artist as he is by the artwork. “She’s a queer British woman of African descent,” he says. “And what I love about it is that there’s been a big movement around figuration. And she’s broken out of that. This is abstract work, brightly colored. And I think the market is kind of trying to catch up to her kind of work.”
British artist Ryan Gander, who is from Suffolk, is showing work at Lisson Gallery’s stand. His wall sculpture features a found 19th century mirror with marble sculpted sheets draped over it. “It’s obviously a tool of vanity and narcissism,” he says. “And for reflection and self-understanding. To cover it is to suggest a kind of negation.”
Writer-filmmaker-gallerist Yiwei Lu debuted his Venice-based Yiwei Gallery in 2021 with an eye toward showing “sustainable art.” That means art that is kind to the planet, with many artists using recycled materials and non-toxic paints in their works, she explains as she poses in front of a work by Analia Saban at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. In this way, Lu is dressed in vegan leather with natural dyes. At Frieze, she says: “I’m here to meet people, I’m here to look for inspiration, to see who are the hottest artists now, and I just like the art fairs. It’s fun to meet people.”
Richard Parker, a skincare researcher, lives between LA, Paris and Melbourne with his partner, Peter Jopling – the latter providing Parker’s entree into the art world. Last year they traveled to the Venice Biennale. Art is a window into the state of the world, says Parker. “I love seeing society reflected in what the cutting-edge artists are doing. It’s almost like a pulse check. You can discover how people think and feel, and that’s what I’m excited to see here at Frieze – to see if that’s true again.”
Husband-wife duo Inna Xu, right, and Chen Dongfan are a power couple in the art world. Xu is originally from China and now lives in New York, running the gallery Inna Art Space and Chen Dongfan is an artist. It is their first time at Frieze in LA and they are looking to buy works on paper. Chen Dongfan makes “large-scale paintings,” Xu says, but they’re especially looking for smaller-scale works today. “It’s satisfying,” says Chen Dongfan. “A small drawing feels very personal. I want to find something to connect with.”
Jessica Nabongo is a writer, photographer and travel expert – she has been to every country in the world, she says. She lives between LA and Detroit and started collecting art seriously about two years ago — “a lot of black artists, which is great, some photography, some mixed media, which is probably my favorite,” she says. “It just has so much life. For me (coming to Frieze) was an opportunity, in real time, to learn more about a large group of artists at once. I plan to come several days so that I can actually get to each and every booth and take it all in.” A work by Camila Falquez at Hannah Traore Gallery has caught her eye. “What I love about it is how the artist has turned the photograph into art through the framing.”
LA-based vintage clothing retailer Francisco George was appropriately dressed in a vintage Dolce & Gabbana custom sleeveless coat and gold-painted fingernails. Part of the thrill of Frieze, he says, is “the hunt”. Posing in front of a Doug Aitken wall sculpture in New York’s 303 Gallery, he elaborated: “You never know what you’re going to find or what’s going to surprise you. I follow the artists’ careers. Seeing what they’re doing new, or finding a historical one from a period I don’t know yet – that’s exciting.”
Admirable work at Sprüth Magers fair, Venice-based artist Kelly Berg—who works in painting, sculpture and mixed media—explains that art fairs help her gain perspective on Southern California and the art world beyond. “It’s exciting to see what happens now,” she says. “I always find it super inspiring to see what’s happening right now in contemporary art. I find it really energizing. I can’t wait to get back to my studio!”