From Tropical Palettes to Organic Juice, Art Los Angeles Contemporary Cements Itself as a Quintessentially LA Fair

“It’s like a fun party,” says Club Pro's Kyle Roberts.

Fair goers at Art Los Angeles Contemporary. Photo: Michael Underwood, courtesy of Art Los Angeles Contemporary.

It’s no secret that the art fair calendar tends to blur together after a while. So if you happen to forget where you are during Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC), have a look outside. The official banner hoisted above the entrance is colored in the neon-pink gradients of a Santa Monica sunset, overlooking a skate ramp next to a local organic juice bar. If there was ever a doubt, you’re in LA, baby.

ALAC, which runs through January 28 at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar, held its VIP preview last night and cemented its identity as a truly LA event. Of its 67 exhibitors, the German contingent of years past was noticeably absent (with the exception of Berlin’s Peres Projects) while the attendance was largely local. There was a majority of West Coast galleries—including Ghebaly, Night, and Ibid—and LA collectors, such as Cliff and Mandy Einstein, John Rubeli, Stefan Simchowitz, Cheech Marin, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

In hooded incognito mode, the film star had come early during the pre-VIP hours and slipped out before the public reception—but not before being denied a Robert Yarber painting in the Nicodim booth, which the gallery had chosen to keep for itself.

“You can’t just come here demanding things,” the lighthearted Mihai Nicodim joked. He had already sold out his Yarber paintings ranging from the ’80s to this year, as well as a large-scale work by Simphiwe Ndzube that hung on the booth’s exterior wall.

Art Los Angeles Contemporary. Photo: Michael Underwood, courtesy of Art Los Angeles Contemporary.

Between the beer bottles and pervasive tropical hues, ALAC exuded a quintessentially LA vibe. “It’s like a fun party,” says Club Pro gallery founder Kyle Roberts. “All our friends are here.”

Local gallerists leveraged their home court advantage to swift sales. The Pit, which had brought FriendsWithYou’s life-size rocking horse character from Gumby into the booth for visitors to ride, sold ceramics by Tony Marsh, photos by Heather Rasmussen, and wall-mounted sculpture by Nora Shields in the early hours of the preview. Anat Egbi, displaying a cross-section of its roster united in a shared palette of pastel pink, sold works by Alec Egan, Ethan Cook, Neil Rate, and Carolyn Walker.

The Pit’s booth at Art Los Angeles Contemporary, featuring a life-size Pokey rocking horse by FriendsWIthYou. Photo: Michael Underwood, courtesy of Art Los Angeles Contemporary.

One notable exception to the robust sales was David Kordansky, whose solo presentation of candy-colored paintings and wall-mounted ceramics by the late artist Betty Woodman was complicated by her recent death. Until the estate has time to organize itself, “nothing is for sale,” said Kordansky director Kurt Mueller, although the “bittersweet” presentation, he says, triggered a “range of emotions.”

As for newcomers, Omayra Alvarado of Bogotá’s Instituto de Visión was “pleasantly surprised” by the fair. In the first hour, she sold a work by Manuela Viera-Gallo. In the Freeways sector for emerging galleries, Galerie Derouillon sold out its presentation of striated, ultra-saturated Guy Yanai paintings (depicting LA fodder such as plants, beaches, and the Standard Hollywood hotel) in the first two hours.

After a positive experience last year at Proyectos, the Peruvian gallery Revolver made its ALAC debut with works by José Carlos Martinat, Alberto Borea, and Ishmael Randall Weeks. “This is the first time we came so we don’t know too many people, actually,” founder Giancarlo Scaglia. “But it’s always the same,” he adds. “You start in a new market to get to know new people.” And that’s what parties are for.

Betty Woodman, 2 Couples (2015). Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery.

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