It’s art-fair season in L.A., bringing forth an eruption of gallery-filled trade fairs that brings the art world to Santa Monica — well, mostly to Santa Monica. And it’s not quite the whole art world; that semidemi-monde convened en masse in Miami last month and will do so again in New York next, so only the more peripatetic of the tribe will be here, showing wares and/or scoping them. Smaller fairs, smaller crowds, more relaxed atmospheres. “More relaxed” is relative, however; even the most staid of these affairs has a delicious, stimulating buzz that comes from more-than-casual art lovers congregating before and amid more-than-casual art. So come commingle with the connoisseurs.
Photo L.A. kicks off the season this weekend, putting some 70 exhibitors — from as near as Larchmont Boulevard and as far as Prague and Brisbane — ’neath the roof of the Santa Monica Civic Center, along with lectures and other events. Now slouching toward its quinceañera, Photo L.A. is the oldest and largest photo-art fair in the country, and has spawned several similarly successful satellites. It also spawned its own younger sibling, Art L.A., which takes up residence in the Civic Center the following weekend — the “big” art weekend in these parts. Of the three fairs coinciding at the butt end of January, Art L.A. is the hippest, concentrating on cutting-edge contemporary stuff. Oh, you’ll have your vintage Pop mixed in, but the bulk of the work on hand will still be warm from the oven.
For more classic art — leavened with new work, to be sure — roll east a few blocks to the Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar for the Fine Art Dealers Association’s Los Angeles Art Show. Tellingly billing itself as “five centuries of art,” the L.A. Art Show has grown in its dozen years to a 90-strong gallery fest with participants from all over the country. The one non–Santa Monica fair, the 22nd annual Los Angeles Fine Print Fair, sets up in LACMA’s west wing for just Saturday and Sunday, and with only 25 or so participants. But it spans at least as many hundreds of years as the L.A. Art Show does, and you’ve got it all there on paper.