By now, you'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Pacific Standard Time, the Getty-funded arts extravaganza that kicks off this weekend. The year-long, $10 million initiative involves more than 60 cultural institutions and 70 commercials galleries focuses on postwar art in Los Angeles. The celebration doesn't just aim to mine the archives of LA's art history, it also intends to attract cultural tourism.

L.A. has long been perceived to play second-fiddle to New York's art scene, even though the locus of production moved here long ago. Cheaper rents, copious space, and LA's legendary light has been attracting artists for decades (Ed Ruscha, Judy Chicago, and Larry Bell were all mid-west transplants). Yet the money — the hedge fund managers and CEO's who collect art as aggressively as they acquire their business investments — has stayed in New York. The major art fairs, catering to the well-heeled collector, have flagships in New York, including the Armory show every March, as well as Art Basel and the Venice Biennale. Yet L.A., despite its preponderance of artists, has yet to attract a major art fair.

This weekend that may change. Four competing art fairs are scheduled to open today downtown, synchronized to the start of Pacific Standard Time. “The fact that there is a critical mass of art fairs is a reflection of how mature the cultural landscape is becoming,” says Bettina Korek, founder of the art recommendation and consultation service ForYourArt. But is there enough of a collector class both in L.A. and coming to town for PST to sustain multiple fairs?

More importantly, how to tell them apart? Let's take a look at the fairs:

Mixed media on insulation panels; Credit: Martin Durazo, Baby Room, 2010

Mixed media on insulation panels; Credit: Martin Durazo, Baby Room, 2010

4. Pulse Los Angeles

Taking place on the event deck of L.A. Live, Pulse is focused purely on contemporary art. The outdoor, tent-based fair is a mid-sized transplant from New York and Miami, with about 60 to 70 gallery booths. Pulse is best known for offering more affordable and accessible art than some of the blue-chip fairs it aligns itself with in other cities. The satellite fair is divided into two sections, one for established galleries and the other for emerging talent. Additionally, the fair also develops cultural programming in the form of large-scale installations, a video lounge, and performance events. Exhibiting galleries range from Human Resources in Chinatown to Luis de Jesus.

Credit: Catherine Opie, Untitled #7

Credit: Catherine Opie, Untitled #7

3. Art Platform Los Angeles

Another New York transplant, Art Platform Los Angeles is backed by MMPI, a firm that produces the Armory show and Art Chicago. While the fair is focused on local artists, it has a more international flavor, with galleries from Tokyo, London and Mexico City. “This is the first real opportunity for L.A. to grab attention on global scale,” says executive director Adam Gross. Art Platform is also capitalizing on MMPI's real estate holdings by hosting the fair at the LA Mart. “People from L.A. go to New York to buy from dealers selling work from artists that live 5 miles from their home,” says Gross. Art Platform is hoping to change that, by featuring blue-chip galleries like Ace, ACME, and Michael Kohn.

Credit: Leigh Salgado, Poppy Fields 2008 Pigment Ink, Acrylic, Burning & Cutting On Archival Paper

Credit: Leigh Salgado, Poppy Fields 2008 Pigment Ink, Acrylic, Burning & Cutting On Archival Paper

2. Avant L.A.

Situated just next door to Art Platform L.A., Avant L.A. is a far smaller ancillary fair, focused on emerging artists and independent curators. The show is anchored by Top 10 Now, focused on L.A.'s top indie artists. If the thought of navigating 60+ booths at Art Platform sounds daunting, this may be a much more manageable alternative.

law logo2x b1. Fountain

Full disclosure — LA Weekly is a presenting sponsor for Fountain, a fair focused on edgier galleries and independent artist projects. Galleries exhibiting there include LA's CHALK and Blythe Projects, San Francisco's Ever Gold and HungryMan, and New York's Murder Lounge and Tinca Art, to name a few. Yet another New York transplant, Fountain is the scrappy upstart relative to the more established fairs in LA. Like Avant L.A., Fountain also features younger, more emerging artists.

Still feeling overwhelmed and maybe a little miserly? There's always the Brewery Artwalk this weekend. It's still free and full of working artists.

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