Sometimes, it’s all about the bathrooms. Or, at least partly about the bathrooms, and those at the L.A. Convention Center, says Kim Martindale, are “real.” Martindale is taking his Los Angeles Art Show downtown this year, a decision he says took two years to make: “I feel like now’s the time. Downtown is a more exciting place. It’s not completely finished and I wanted the L.A. Art Show to be part of that. It’s been a tough year, of course, but the bigger picture is that it made perfect sense to be downtown — at a hall where we can grow an international show.”
Martindale’s decision has allowed L.A.’s contemporary-art fair, Art LA, to take over the Art Show’s former digs, Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport. “We’re ecstatic to be there,” Art LA director Tim Fleming says, adding that while he really liked the old venue, the Santa Monica Civic, “my job is to create a level playing field for all the galleries.” Like his counterpart, Fleming tends to think about the pragmatics; at Art LA, that means providing each of the 60 participating galleries with the same 12-foot walls (which wasn’t possible at the Civic, with its raked roof).
Both shows are trying to broaden their exhibitors, their audience and their programming. “Our goal was to get ourselves on the cultural calendar,” says Fleming, noting that the New York collectors Susan and Michael Hort are flying out for it. He and his team worked with MOCA’s development staff to create the opening-night reception, which will benefit MOCA, and which will be followed by a party at Royal/T (with Dave Muller and Andrew Beradini spinning). They reached out to new galleries, such as Isabella Bortolozzi in Berlin, and got important local galleries like Blum & Poe and L.A. Louver to come back. And they’ve added atypical programming: a private event with Jon Brion and friends at Largo; a tour of the Broad Art Foundation by blogger (and BAF staffer) Ed Schad; a tour of the Watts Towers with artist Edgar Arceneaux; a private tour by the big Mexican collector, Eugenio Lopez. And there is some on-site fun, too, as artist Jorge Pardo re-creates Chinatown’s Mountain Bar in a 50×60-foot tent.
The L.A. Art Show, which has its own gala opening benefiting LACMA and Inner-City Arts, offers an expanded program of discussions and talks, including writer Jori Finkel on how to start and build an art collection, gallerist Peter Fetterman on collecting photography, and critics Mat Gleason and Hunter Drohojowska-Philp on “Art in the New Political Landscape.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is hosting a rather loosely curated film series at USC, and there is something called “The Art of Fashion — where high fashion merges with the art world.” Uh-huh. The most interesting new element to this year’s event is Supersonic, the MFA graduate show, to which Martindale has donated 10,000 square feet of Convention Center floor. It’s kind of perfect, no? What better lesson for graduating artists than to be thrown into a vast hall of commerce!