Away from the hoopla of the Hollywood fairs this week (What’s Frieze?), stARTup, the scrappy, artist-led fair in its fifth year in L.A., provides a low-key alternative by showcasing a range of playful and accessible works.
In past years, stARTup’s location made them a satellite of ALAC in Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar. However, with ALAC’s move to the Hollywood Athletic Club, stARTup has the Westside to itself, allowing it to carve out a space as a hotel fair for up-and-coming artists.
True to its Venice location, stARTup feels quirky, cozy, and individual in scale. Many artists took a put-your-feet-up approach towards their exhibits and interactions, offering snacks and drinks in the bright, pop-art-decorated rooms at The Kinney that only occasionally distracted from the installations.
And true to its name, the fair’s affordable price points and emphasis on learning and conversation made it feel like a garage-based startup; a side hustle going full time. The fair’s meritocratic ideal was also apparent in its inclusion of a public vote for favorite artist and best room installation, each of which secures their spot for the next year’s show.
Mark Wagner won last year’s popular vote for his graphic prints. He first came to stARTup as a visitor and liked the idiosyncratic mixture so much that he decided to exhibit. A standout exhibitor this year was Kushlani Jayasinha, whose appealing combinations of color and movement created beautifully emotive abstract works. Jayasinha appreciates the scene at stARTup, where, she says, she is “treated like an artist rather than a vendor.”
Most artists brought humor to their installations, arraying prints and paintings in relevant positions on beds or in bathrooms, or, as in Richard Krevolin’s case, including pine cones and green turf to accompany his forest paintings. Emily Madigan’s fantastical animal sculptures – recovered taxidermy pieces that she has bedecked and bespangled – also sparkled with fun. DAC Gallery showed special-needs artist Sonia Prado’s lively work, which featured her interest in the drama of wrestlers and divas in paintings installed around a bed turned into a wrestling ring.
stARTup’s commendable partnership with several local museums and nonprofits provided some memorable exhibits as well. Art Share L.A. showcased a range of prints, the Los Angeles Center of Photography curated a group show, and the Lancaster Museum of Art and History showed Lynne McDaniel’s expressive “Anxiety Project” paintings.
stARTup provides something for everyone. From print to painting to performance, the experience offers an affordable way of dipping a toe into the art world without the heightened drama of the big-name fairs. Artists offering prints, pillows, and accessories like bags and scarves also make it easy for people for people to start including art in their everyday lives – even after all the fairs have packed up and left town.
stARTup Los Angeles continues at The Kinney in Venice through Sunday February 16, 12–7pm; $20. startupartfair.com.