Wet Paint in the Wild: Gallerist James Fuentes Sets Up Shop in L.A. and Takes Us Behind the Scenes of Painter Didier Williams’s Opening Show

The gallerist takes us through a week in his life as he opens his new space in Los Angeles.

From left, James Fuentes, Justin William, and Didier William.

Welcome to Wet Paint in the Wild, the freewheeling—and free!—spinoff of Artnet News Pro’s beloved Wet Paint gossip column, where we give art-world insiders a disposable camera to chronicle their lives on the circuit. To read the latest Wet Paint column, click here (members only). 

James Fuentes is the latest cool downtown gallerist to hang out a shingle in the warmth of Los Angeles. He is a noted stalwart of the Lower East Side and when I found out that he’d be seeking gold out west, it felt like a confirmation to me that the cross-pollination between our two cultural capitals had finally reached its apex. He opened the space on Melrose Hill earlier this month, and while I couldn’t make the opening, I handed him a camera to see what it looked like from his perspective. Let’s dive in…

A week before the opening, we held our first event in our new Los Angeles space: the Bard Spring 2023 alumni gathering. As an alum, giving back to the Bard community in this capacity is really important to me.

The calm before the storm… Here’s our Senior Director, Katrin Lewinsky, and our Associate Director, Quinn Charles, preparing for our big opening weekend.

The night before our official opening, friends and family came to see the space and our inaugural show by Didier William, “Things Like This Don’t Happen Here.” It was so meaningful to celebrate alongside everyone who helped make JF LA a reality.

Didier and Gina Athena Ulysse celebrating the occasion. Gina wrote a wonderful piece about Didier’s MOCA North Miami exhibition, “Nou Kite Tout Sa Dèyè.”

Caught Gabbi Gard on film as she walked around, greeting everyone. She was our first L.A. team member and has been doing a great job helping us prepare to open the new space!

Blurry picture, but Joseph Gaegan in the center will show at the gallery in 2024, a follow-up to his show at our gallery in New York in 2018. Joseph also has a gallery in L.A., Gaylord Apartments.

My daughter and Katrin’s daughter met that night and instantly became BFF’s. Pictured here playing chess after they took in the artwork!

Hard to photograph with these disposable cameras at Yamashiro, but there was a full moon overlooking downtown L.A.… you had to be there!

Here’s Job Piston and Jennifer Piejko enjoying the evening.

Saturday! The big opening! We’re so happy that Los Angeles has been so welcoming. Here are some friends reading Didier’s book, which James Fuentes Press published last year alongside Didier’s MOCA North Miami catalog.

Artist Joe Lewis came from Irvine, California to brighten the evening. His work is currently on view in our group show, “Study in Form (Chapter One),” curated by Arden Wohl back in New York.

Our wonderful architect, Christopher Leong (of Leong Leong), scoping out the space.

Had to include our PR mavericks, Sarah Miller and Hannah Gottlieb-Graham, holding it down.

Final hoorah in Los Angeles; the team celebrated our L.A. launch with a beautiful dinner at Jar, following the public opening on Saturday. Steaks and martinis all around!

Branwen Jones, being the most stylish woman in the room sporting our brand new James Fuentes L.A. merch. We ran into Johanna Burton and Tim Griffin—you never know who you may see at Jar…

That’s a wrap on our opening weekend, come visit us at 5015 Melrose Ave!

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