Issue: Winter 2018

Hollywood's Burgeoning Art Scene

Anastasia Goronok

Over the last decade, Los Angeles has slowly but steadily emerged as America’s second hub for contemporary art, particularly over the last few years. L.A. generally boasts about four times the number of sculptors, fine artists and painters than the national average, exceeding New York’s one-and-a-half times.

Aside from the immeasurable cultural contributions and rich history of the Hollywood film industry, Los Angeles is also home to numerous contemporary art spaces, including LACMA and MOCA. It also originated the lowbrow art movement, a popular genre of art that began in the 70’s, and mixes influences from punk, tiki culture, underground comix, surrealism and pop. A recent influx of creatives from other cities has further diversified the artistic community here. L.A. audiences are receptive and open to new work in a way the east coast audience may not be, for a variety of reasons—one of which is perhaps exposure, according to Kassandra Voyagis, executive director of the LA Art Show. “On the east coast, buyers go into shows knowing what they want; they’ve been going to the fairs, they know the galleries. L.A. has changed quite a bit in the last three to four years. Buyers who used to travel to the east coast or overseas to buy have started buying here.” Art enhances perception, increases intellectual flexibility, and on some level changes the way we see ourselves. Artists spend a lot of time, energy and money to develop lexicons of imagery, style, and content for their work, but the art world, and market, can be somewhat mercurial. It helps that there’s both receptivity and wealth in L.A., which means lots of homes with empty wall space, although Los Angeles collectors are building more serious art collections of non-decorative work as well.

L.A. Art Show
The L.A Art Show has an emphasis on modern and contemporary art.

The Annual LA Art Show, which runs Jan 23rd through 27th, focuses mainly on modern and contemporary art. It’s taken its place among internationally renowned fairs like Art Basel, Frieze, and others, and will be shown in more than 200,000 square feet of space at the Downtown LA Convention Center, which is also home to the Grammys. The show will be organized in specialized sectors like CORE, for well-known galleries, and Modern + Contemporary, which encompasses illustration, painting, sculpture and more from both local and international venues. Littletopia is a section that will focus on the lowbrow art movement. This section was conceived by Noah Antieau of Red Truck Gallery and Juxtapoz—a popular subculture magazine—co-founder Greg Escalante. The fair will also feature an impressive variety of immersive installations, performances and other exhibitions.

L.A. Art Show
The L.A. Art Show will be held January 23 -27 at the L.A. Convention Center

Despite last year’s closing of Couturier, Jack Rutberg Fine Arts and Tobey C. Moss Galleries, proponents of the art scene in Los Angeles for over 40 years, contemporary galleries in Hollywood are thriving. There’s a concentrated art hub on Highland Ave, home to many contemporary art galleries. Upon first glance, with the exceptions of Kohn Gallery and Diane Rosenstein’s Gallery, most of the façades are rather unassuming and project minimal street presence, although the work housed within is some of the most cutting edge.

Kohn Gallery
Kohn's Gallery's formidable presence on Highland Avenue

Nearby, on North Orange Ave, Jeffrey Deitch, revered art world polymath and former director of MOCA, has opened his aponymous new gallery, Jeffrey Deitch, this past September. Deitch’s New York gallery is well known for events bringing together youth culture, underground music and visual art. Although he left MOCA in 2013, and reopened his gallery in New York, Deitch has recently resurfaced in the Los Angeles art world. In an interview with High Snobiety in 2010, he comments, “There’s nothing like Los Angeles on earth…where you have the nature experience, the urban experience, and this whole fantasy of Hollywood.” Deitch describes the space as being particularly ‘L.A.’, according to the Los Angeles Times, and was introduced to it by iconic fashion photographer David LaChapelle. The 15,000 square foot gallery was renovated by Frank Gehry, the same architect responsible for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall here in L.A. Deitch’s inaugural exhibition is by revolutionary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and is an instillation of 6,000 antique stools common to Chinese households.

Driving down Highland Ave. it’s easy to miss some of the more exciting galleries. You’d hardly notice VSF, short for Various Small Fires, which opened in 2012, and is run by Esther Kim Varet. Although it has a relatively short exhibition history, its collection of emerging artists is impressive and includes Robin F. Williams, Julie Curtiss, and Billy Al Bengston, among others. Tanya Bonakdar Gallery is another quietly exciting space that has been active in the L.A. art scene for over 20 years. She nurtured the development of key artists like Olafur Eliasson, Mat Collishaw, Carla Klein, and more, offering them their first solo shows in the United States. In an interview in Artnews, Bonakdar stated, “The contemporary arts community of Los Angeles is unique and unparalleled, from its universities, to its resident artists, to its museums and private foundations to its individual patrons and supporters.” Commenting on the effect of a growing contemporary art presence in L.A., Bonakdar stated that, “It’s a ripple effect. More galleries are popping up, the local artist community and collector base is growing, and major museums like LACMA and the Hammer are expanding. The city has become a serious international contender as a major arts center.” 

Regen Projects, Kohn and Diane Rosenstein are galleries specialized in well-known and highly collectible art on a massive scale. Their light-filled spaces easily show the artist’s works they represent, which have included the likes of Keith Haring, 80’s art icon, Frank Stella, Richard Tuttle, and contemporary art superstars like Matthew Barney, former husband to Bjork, Elizabeth Peyton, and Anish Kapoor, the artist responsible for patenting the blackest shade of black in the world. Other galleries to visit on Highland include Gavlak, a contemporary art space with locations in Palm Beach, Florida, Los Angeles, and a new location in Miami. Gavlak focuses on women, LGBTQ artists, and features contemporary artists like Lisa Anne Auerbach, Zoe Buckman, Francesca Gabbiani, and Micheal Manning, among others. Artists Corner is another contemporary gallery showing both emerging and established artists in Los Angeles. They’ll be hosting their second art fair, Art in LA Affair 2019, set to run from February 13th through February 17th, and will feature work from an eclectic selection of emerging artists.

Artists Corner
Artists Corner on Highland has a neigborhood vibe.

Creating and studying art, to some extent, is a way of studying of the self, whether that means exploring ideas, current events, or looking inward. Viewing art can make us similarly connected to ourselves, and in turn, others. Luckily for those that live here, Los Angeles is a diverse, thriving city; there’s something here for every taste.