The Back Room: How the West Was Won
This week: Frieze L.A. in a flash, rising star Kandis Williams on the move, museums still in pandemic-induced peril, and much more.
Every Friday, Artnet News Pro members get exclusive access to the Back Room, our lively recap funneling only the week’s must-know intel into a nimble read you’ll actually enjoy.
This week in the Back Room: Frieze L.A. in a flash, rising star Kandis Williams on the move, museums still in pandemic-induced peril, and much more—all in a 7-minute read (1,853 words).
Top of the Market
What a difference six weeks can make. As Omicron ravaged the U.S. in early January, some in the business worried that the virus might force a postponement of Frieze Los Angeles. Instead, the L.A. edition of Frieze Week 2022 arguably delivered the heftiest dose of market activity in the city’s history, solidifying Los Angeles as indispensable to the trade’s health.
Sure, sales were publicized fast and furious at the fairs themselves (more on that soon). But even more consequential was the avalanche of gallery expansions announced or opened in the vicinity of Frieze Week, including more than half a dozen New York dealers ranging from the big to the buzzy…
- David Zwirner confirmed its plan (first relayed by Artnet News last April) to premiere a three-building East Hollywood complex in January 2023, with a solo by Njideka Akunyili Crosby.
- Pace acquired homegrown, LACMA-adjacent gallery Kayne Griffin—and will introduce itself to the city with an April show of Julian Schnabel, per Vanity Fair’s Nate Freeman.
- Lisson will launch an 8,000-square-foot location in Hollywood this fall, powered by an exhibition by the late Carmen Herrera (RIP).
- Karma gallery will set up shop in a West Hollywood spot on Santa Monica Boulevard, according to The Canvas, marking the dealership’s first expansion beyond NYC.
- Gladstone Gallery quietly opened an office on Melrose Avenue, overseen by at-large director Cooke Maroney and partner Caroline Luce.
… And that’s just a sampling. Other newly minted L.A. expansionists include Albertz Benda, Sean Kelly, the Hole, and Sargent’s Daughters (while Hauser and Wirth continues work on its earlier-announced second space in the City of Angels).
Angeleno galleries are spreading their wings, too…
- Night Gallery nearly tripled its square footage in January by soft opening a nearby second location (dubbed Night Gallery North) inaugurated by an epic Samara Golden installation.
- Neighboring powerhouse François Ghebaly unveiled an architectural revamp as part of its Frieze Week show of Sayre Gomez.
- Morán Morán debuted a new, larger space on Melrose and Western Avenue last August.
More upgrades by local risers are undoubtedly on the way as the out-of-towners keep piling in. In fact, there’s been so much transformative industry news about L.A. lately that you could almost forget it hosted multiple fairs last week!
The consensus was that the deal-making and the vibe were beyond healthy across price tiers at the first Beverly Hills-sited Frieze and its good-time, good-business Hollywood counterpart Felix. Below, a roundup of top reported transactions (full list here), along with a trio of artists to watch (full list here) from the week’s festivities.
Frieze Sales Above $1 Million
- $3 million (roughly): Jeff Koons’s Gazing Ball (Antinous-Dionysus) (2013) at Pace.
- $1.65 million (roughly): Chris Burden’s installation Dreamer’s Folly (2010) at Gagosian, acquired by a European institution per Vanity Fair.
- $1.5 million: Georg Baselitz’s Eisdiele (2020) at Thaddaeus Ropac.
- $1.2 million: Beatriz Milhazes’s O Bailarino (2019) at White Cube.
- $1.1 million: one work by Robert Rauschenberg at each of Ropac and Gladstone.
Artists to Watch
- Leda Catunda: Called “the foremost feminist painter in Brazil” by exhibiting gallery Bortolami—which will soon host the artist’s first New York show since 2004—Catunda wowed visitors with her monumental paint-on-found-fabric assemblage in the airspace between Frieze’s two main tents.
- Kye Christensen Knowles: The young painter specializes in mashing up imagery ranging from Old Master paintings, to international comic books, to punk subcultures, and beyond. Four of his five available canvases found buyers before Lomex gallery opened its room at Felix.
(Prices: $20,000 to $40,000.)
- Timo Fahler: Combining equal knowledge of Tiffany glass and hardware-store materials, Fahler makes figurative stained-glass pieces supported by wall mounts often cast from his own hands. L.A. gallery Stanley’s nearly sold out its booth in the Focus section just hours into Frieze’s VIP preview. (Prices: $7,500 to $30,000.)
The Bottom Line
While the brisk business done at Frieze and Felix last week matters, the larger point is that the latest crop of permanent expansions by East Coast, Angeleno, and international dealers alike cements Los Angeles as a year-round engine for the trade, not just a seasonal one.
Since L.A. is all but guaranteed to keep siphoning more and more wealthy, style-savvy, culturally conscious residents away from other cities in the coming years, it’s also time to retire the notion that the city is great for artists but not for dealers or collectors. Like it or not, a larger-than-ever choir of art industry players is singing Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”—and there’s no turning back now.
The latest Wet Paint covers the defection of closely-watched artist Kandis Wiliams from Night Gallery to crosstown competitor Morán Morán, plus a Frieze L.A. ridealong with acclaimed pop-music producer and former Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij (who owns work by Alex Da Corte, Cody Critchloe, and Borna Sammak. Just don’t call him a collector, he says!)
Here’s what else made a mark around the industry since last Friday morning…
- Art Cologne has absorbed the failing Cologne Fine Art and Design fair, which will be reincarnated as an “Art + Object” section of the bigger expo this November. (FAZ)
Independent will return to New York’s Spring Studios from May 5 to 8; TEFAF New York will take over the Park Avenue Armory from May 6 to 10; and tickets are now on sale for Expo Chicago, which runs at Navy Pier from April 7 to 10. (Press releases)
- Art Basel announced the 289 exhibitors for its Swiss flagship event, scheduled for June 16 to 19, just like old times. Its supersized Unlimited section, however, will open on Thursday of that week (June 16) rather than the customary Monday. (Art Basel)
- Part two of the star-studded Macklowe Collection sale will be held at Sotheby’s New York on May 16. The 30 major lots on offer are expected to reap another $200 million, with a Mark Rothko abstract and an Andy Warhol camouflage self-portrait leading the charge. (Artnet News Pro)
- Phillips announced the full lineup for its “New Now” sale in New York on March 9, featuring the auction debuts of artists Anthony Cudahy, Sarah Slappey, Angela Heisch, Caleb Hahne, and tattoo artist Dr. Woo. (Press release)
- Just before the scheduled beginning of a single-lot mega-sale at Sotheby’s Thursday night, the anonymous consignor of 104 CryptoPunks (estimated at $30 million) withdrew the works, posting on Twitter later that night: “nvm, decided to hodl. [sic]” (Artnet News)
- Gagosian will launch yet another London outpost—this one dedicated to books, editions, and artist objects—on Burlington Arcade March 1. Director Millicent Wilner said the space, which also features a small exhibition space, will operate for “at least six months.” (FT)
- Lyles & King now represents Johannesburg-based artist Phumelele Tshabalala (who will also continue to be repped by Pippy Houldsworth in London). (Press release)
- Cosmin Costinas is leaving Hong Kong’s Para Site art space after 11 years to join an as-yet-unnamed German art institution. Billy Tang, senior curator at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, will take over as Para Site’s executive director and curator. (Press release)
- Controversies roiled U.K. art institutions this week, as Manchester University booted Whitworth Art Gallery director Alistair Hudson for making a pro-Palestinian statement, and London’s National Gallery became the latest institution to cut ties with oil giant B.P. (Artnet News / Artnet News)
- Retired employees of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles are lashing out at the museum’s decision to sell its defined benefit pension plan to an insurance company, costing pensioners precious federal protections. (TAN)
NFTs and More
- A hacker stole NFTs from 32 OpenSea users, including some pricey Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club tokens. The plot thickened when the assailant returned select NFTs to their original owners and inexplicably sent one victim 50 ETH ($130,000). (Kotaku)
- The Congolese Plantation Workers Art League minted an unauthorized NFT of an important Pende sculpture held by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to reclaim the carving and redirect profits to its post-plantation artistic community in Lusanga. (Artnet News)
Running in Place
The American Alliance of Museums released its latest “snapshot” survey of COVID’s effects on its members nationwide, and for better or worse, one important metric has not improved in the past seven months.
- Among responding museums that have reopened to the public, a combined 17 percent are either unsure about their institution’s prospects of closing for good within the next year, or think there is a “significant risk” of that outcome.
- That’s roughly half the proportion of museums (33 percent) that gave one of those two unsettling answers in July 2020.
- However, it’s an incremental increase from the 15 percent of museums that considered themselves unsure or at risk of permanent closure in April 2021.
The responses come from directors at 710 museums across the U.S., about 590 of which reopened at some point between the initial lockdowns and the end of last year. The remaining 120 or so institutions still are not welcoming visitors.
“When you’re young in the art world, you can just reach out to people, and they want to help you out or give you advice because you’re just a kid—more so than if I was some 45-year-old former finance guy or some shit.”
—Matthew Brown, the Los Angeles gallery scene’s 25-year-old mogul in the making, explaining away his uncanny ability to charm heavyweights like Jeffrey Deitch and decision-makers at Gagosian. (Artnet News)
Artwork of the Week
Thomas Houseago’s Purple Sunset on the Pool – Early Moonrise (for DH)
Asking Price: In the range of $350,000
Acquired by: LACMA
Sold at: Frieze Los Angeles
Los Angeles has a long history of hosting personal reinventions, so it’s only right that one of the most distinctive, most sought-after sculptors working today would use last week’s festivities to continue his pivot to (gasp!) painting.
Thomas Houseago’s new series of “California Paintings” debuted inside the Frieze booth of his Belgian dealer, Xavier Hufkens, at prices in the neighborhood of $350,000 each. The pieces quickly sold out, with Purple Sunset on the Pool – Early Moonrise (for DH) being directly acquired by LACMA, according to a gallery spokesperson.
The new canvases follow on the heels of the “Vision Paintings” that anchored Houseago’s exhibition at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium last year. Although their snarling linework and use of negative space call back to his confrontational skeletal sculptures, the new paintings’ mood and purpose are 180 degrees different.
In an interview with my colleague Kate Brown last summer, the artist said that his earlier artwork had become tied up in an increasingly self-destructive loop triggered by early-life trauma. Painting, however, became an integral part of his journey to heal the deep, life-threatening depression that resulted.
In his words, “I had a dark joke: I felt like it was as if Kurt Cobain returned suddenly making sound bowl albums! … Like, I’m painting the moon out on my deck—what the fuck is this?”
The answer, it seems, is a hit—and yet, still one whose value to Houseago was larger than money or museum acquisitions could ever be.
With contributions by Naomi Rea.
Thanks for joining us in the Back Room. See you next Friday.
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