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A guide to Frieze Los Angeles and an art extravaganza this weekend

The crowd at Frieze Los Angeles cluster in conversation during a previous year's iteration of the art fair.
The crowd at Frieze Los Angeles cluster in conversation during a previous year’s iteration of the art fair. This year’s festival starts Thursday.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)
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A kickoff party for the fifth edition of Frieze Los Angeles welcomed several hundred collectors, gallerists and other art world stakeholders to the Getty Villa this week despite a drenching rain — recalling the global art fair’s dramatic West Coast debut in 2019, when a deluge coincided with the VIP opening at Paramount Studios. But getting Angelenos to venture out in a downpour is just one way that Frieze, which draws some 35,000 visitors annually to its colorful contemporary exhibitions, has transformed the city’s art scene.

The fair, which runs Thursday through Sunday at Santa Monica Airport, has become the magnetic center for dozens of openings, talks and soirees. Christine Messineo, Frieze’s director of Americas who leads New York’s event as well as L.A.’s, said she’s received invitations to more than 150 events this week.

It’s a density of content and experiences that creates a wistful tension for some in the cultural community who advocate for L.A.’s vibrant scene the other 51 weeks of the year. Still, there’s no denying the creative and commercial charge Frieze — together with its looser, more intimate sibling Felix — brings to town. “There’s a global world that descends upon Los Angeles,” Messineo said. “I’ve been met with real optimism” about the market, she added, and despite economic uncertainty, collectors are already buying. “There are booths that I know have already sold out.”

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Against the backdrop of a massive tower, balloons float skyward in "Iran, Freedom Sq.," a 2015 work by Newsha Tavakolian.
“Iran, Freedom Sq.,” 2015, by Newsha Tavakolian will be on view in Dastan Gallery’s space at Frieze L.A.
(Newsha Tavakolian and Dastan Gallery)

At a welcome party for Frieze exhibitors Tuesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, gallery owners from near and far were buzzing about the fair’s impact. “I believe there is a new Silk Road that is made for culture, particularly visual art, and Frieze is an anchor for different parts of it,” said Hormoz Hematian, founder of Tehran-based Dastan Gallery, which is presenting at Frieze L.A. for the third time. “It feels like I’m connected to a very, very ancient tradition of going up and down that Silk Road and sharing culture.” Mara McCarthy, an L.A. art world native, said she was excited for the explosion of exhibitions across the city that crop up to accompany Frieze.

McCarthy’s The Box will show work at the fair from three California voices: Pasadena-based sculptor Naotaka Hiro, mixed-media sculptor Laura Soto and the late conceptual artist Eugenia P. Butler. It’s one of more than 95 exhibitors this year (compared with about 120 in 2023), representing artists from Ojai and Oakland to Oslo and Shanghai. Highlights include L.A. institution Blum’s 30th anniversary presentation — with works from Yoshimoto Nara, Sebastian Silva and more — as well as Gagosian’s themed offering “Social Abstraction,” featuring multiple generations of Black artists including Lauren Halsey and Theaster Gates. Stefania Bortolami’s eponymous New York gallery will feature Claudio Parmiggiani with new work from his “Delocazione” series of panels marked with traces of fire.

Also on view will be new textile works by Gary Tyler, the recipient of Frieze L.A.’s 2024 Impact prize, who was selected by a jury including Ariel Emanuel (chief executive of Endeavor, which owns Frieze and Hollywood talent agency WME), artist Gary Simmons and OWN TV President Tina Perry-Whitney. During his nearly 42-year incarceration at the state penitentiary in Angola, La., Tyler learned the art of quilting; since his release in 2016, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled his sentencing unconstitutional, he has created work centered on healing and promoting change in the criminal justice system.

A portrait of Gary Tyler, recipient of Frieze Los Angeles' Impact prize.
Gary Tyler, recipient of Frieze Los Angeles’ Impact prize.
(Dorian Hill / Courtesy of Gary Tyler and Library Street Collective)

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The fair’s Focus section, which highlights 12 young galleries, was curated by the California African American Museum’s Essence Harden, recently announced as co-curator of the Hammer Museum’s 2025 “Made in L.A.” biennial. At a Thursday morning VIP breakfast — promising piles of Courage bagels and more at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica — the fair is set to announce an initiative supporting CAAM’s acquisition of “Natural,” a ceramic work by L.A.-based sculptor Mustafa Clayton Ali, represented at Focus by West Adams’ Dominique Gallery.

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The partnership with CAAM, Messineo said, is just one step in Frieze’s deepening investment in L.A. beyond the fair weekend. Frieze is working “very closely” with the Getty, she noted, on “PST Art: Art & Science Collide,” this fall’s edition of the Pacific Standard Time initiative staged at venues across Southern California. For the second year, the city of Santa Monica also will acquire a work from the fair with support from Frieze. And two installations in the free outdoor exhibition “Set Seen” — curated by the Art Production Fund — will remain on view at the airport grounds through the first week of April.

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Perhaps the most hotly anticipated “Set Seen” project is Sharif Farrag’s “Rat Race.” The Angeleno has sculpted terracotta rodents atop the bodies of radio-controlled cars and will engage VIPs and other visitors to race them. Farrag is represented by Fran?ois Ghebaly, a five-time Frieze L.A. exhibitor with galleries in DTLA and New York.

“He wanted to do something that could interact with the public in an unusual way,” Ghebaly said of the artist. “He uses the language of cartoon and history, and then turns it into something very punk. It’s going to be fun, and provocative.”

Another “Set Seen” project interrogating our relationship with cars is Pippa Garner’s “Haulin’ Ass!” The Bay Area octogenarian has reconfigured a red 2003 Ford Ranger pickup truck to appear as if it drives backward, similar to the “Backwards Car” she drove across the Golden Gate Bridge in 1974.

California African American Museum curator Essence Harden and Frieze's director of Americas, Christine Messineo
Essence Harden, the California African American Museum curator who organized Frieze’s Focus section, left, joins Christine Messineo, Frieze’s director of Americas, at the kickoff event Monday at the Getty Villa.
(Kyle Goldberg/BFA.com)

If Garner were to navigate her truck 12 miles northeast from Santa Monica Airport to the Hollywood Roosevelt, as many collectors will do this weekend, she would experience a major vibe shift at the Felix Art Fair, which had its VIP opening Wednesday and runs through Sunday. Actor Zachary Quinto was among the invitees who wended their way through poolside cabanas and hotel rooms to view works from 66 global exhibitors, including L.A.’s Fernberger Gallery, M+B and One Trick Pony. Although it’s impossible not to rub up against other art lovers — and sometimes the art — in this setting, Felix in its sixth edition has “finally figured out the crowd flow,” said Al Morán, a co-founder of the fair with Mills Morán and Dean Valentine. Credit the improvement to more staff, fewer VIP invitees and a crowd that over time has become more familiar with navigating the unusual space.

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Echoing Messineo, Morán cited optimism and energy among the exhibitors and collectors he mingled with on Wednesday. “People are happy and people are grateful,” he said. What’s new at Felix this year is a partnership with Dover Street Market showcasing collaborations between artists and DSM labels sold out of a robust structure created by L.A. artist Oscar Tuazon in the Roosevelt’s main ballroom, strategically adjacent to the fair entrance. Think Sterling Ruby x Vans and Total Luxury Spa T-shirts with the likes of Lauren Halsey. Sure, $60 seems steep for a baseball cap, but not compared to the four-, five- and six-figure works on view beyond the check-in desk.

Art fairs this weekend

Frieze Los Angeles
When: Thursday-Sunday
Where: Santa Monica Airport,

Tickets: $39 (for students) to $202
Info: frieze.com


Felix LA

When: Thursday-Sunday

Where: Hollywood Roosevelt

Tickets: $75 for one day to $100 for the full run

Info: felixfair.com

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