The Los Angeles Scene: Navigating the L.A. Art World

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By Bruce Edwin

Honor Fraser

Navigating the L.A. Art world can be tricky business. So, for visitors or those new to the scene, I am going to clue you in. The first thing to know about the art scene in L.A. is that it is spread out. Surprise-Surprise! If you've heard my line that Los Angeles is like 20 or more small cities connected by freeways, you get the idea of the L.A. art scene. First there is Beverly Hills. Here we have, of course the famous Gagosian Gallery, considered by many to be king of the art world. Many other fine, top galleries, such as Galerie Michael, also exist in the 'triangle,' as we call the area in Beverly Hills that has the most culture, including best food, within it. With the stretch around Gagosian, it is quite pedestrian friendly. Unbeknownst to many, there is, unlike West Hollywood or Century City, plenty of great free parking in Beverly Hills.

Culver City Art Walk

The Culver City art walk, which I recently visited, is held on Saturdays, and is a pleasure. With the massively wide and long blocks here on and around South La Cienega Boulevard, the open doors of most of the galleries (starting at around 6pm and going until 10pm or later), help bridge some of the cold and distant loneliness that Los Angeles can at times create if one does not go out of their way to be social. Hundreds of art patrons roam the streets from gallery to gallery during the now legendary L.A. Art Walks. Imagine a pub hop or bar crawl, except for the art scene, and you get the idea. The crowds for the L.A. Art Walks range from the new monied rich, to the faux rich, to the merely hip and trendy. Some go to see art. Some go to be seen. Some go to see others, and some actually go to buy something, with the majority of the crowds seeming to fall into the former categories. The Culver City art walk crowd itself is very young and attractive. One could confuse the art walk happening here for a red carpet party or an runway show being nearby: handsome men perfectly groomed, and young, tall models running about in heels and short skirts.

Caryl M. Christian Levy

A quick lesson to be learned about the L.A. art world: The best looking, richest, and most expensive galleries with the shiniest floors, smoothest walls, and tallest ceilings do not necessarily have the best art. And, the galleries with the biggest crowds and best looking people do not necessarily have the best art either. What these have, according to Hollywood Sentinel art writer Moira Cue, are generally the most free alcohol. And so, while some art buyers may think they are getting the best art from the fanciest gallery with the best air conditioning, the real buyers know that great art has nothing do with the money behind it, or presentation. Sure, it can help, but it is the art that is of value, not the men or women in stuffy suits behind desks looking down their noses from their ivory towers snobbishly at a roving public that makes it so. Art is for art's sake, and, one can be and have the richest gallery in town and still sell soulless junk, devoid of merit or substance, but that somehow, due to some travesty of justice, commands and gets paid a hefty price tag for it.

Katherine Cone Gallery

Some of the exceptions I discovered here include Eric Pedersen's show at the Katherine Cone Gallery, which was quite impressive. Eric is a masterful and unique painter whose work has also been exhibited at one of my favorite New York galleries, Arcadia. Katherine Cone Gallery here was very warm, welcoming, had a great crowd, and had a very sweet and pretty girl at the desk who kindly greeted me, as did a guy standing near her who was equally pretty—a model I hope. O.K. I admit, friendliness and a pretty face can sway my opinion of a gallery. But then again, gallerists, remember, you want the public to come back to look at the art, not your employees—unless they're selling lots of art!

Victor Issa

Bruce Lurie Gallery

Another gallery where one is welcomed with open arms is the Bruce Lurie Gallery. Gallerists Scott and Bruce here are very cordial and professional gentleman, who know great art, have great art, and know how to sell and how to treat potential clients. Their kind staff warmly greeted every guest at the door with purified waters, choices of red or white white wines, and a personal one-on-one explanation of the art. Notwithstanding the former remarks about an abundance of alcohol, it is a silent rule, a must, that any gallery opening have wine (and preferably also cheese, crackers, fruit, or other snacks) at their show, which only a select few galleries here at the Culver City Art Walk did.

As a fan of Warhol and the pop scene, I loved the show here at the Bruce Lurie Gallery, with great works by Michael Gorman, street artist Gary John (who was recently homeless and rescued by this fine gallery), whose work is outstanding, and artist Nelson De La Nuez, who is making quite a stir in the corporate world among more, with his brilliant works of pop ranging from Superman, The Wizard of Oz, and more. He is also notable as having been the artist whose work was the final art purchase made by the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, which has turned in to the artists' de-facto tagline, appropriately enough. Naturally, Warhol is the king of pop art, with Lichtenstein number two. Yet, De La Nuez is making his own impressive ground during our modern times, is surprisingly affordable, and is truly a delight to view and must be surely as well to own.

Honor Fraser

The widely recognized gallery Honor Fraser can not be ignored, and for good reason. As any good fashionista knows, The lovely Honor Fraser was a top model back in the day, and still maintains her beauty and grace. Honor is the sister of the 16th Lord Lovat, and is the granddaughter of British Commando Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat. She is sister of the current Lord Lovat, chief of Clan Fraser in Scotland. She was raised in Beaufort Castle Scotland. Today, Honor is not only a bon vivant of the social scene, but also a respectable gallerist. Brenna Youngblood's Activision show here was pleasantly entertaining, with my favorite- the brilliant solid handled wooded doors turned into a four paneled rotating door, which led from one room to another, and welcomed each modelesque visitor anew, as if a show unto itself.

Bergamot Station

West Hollywood also has its own scene, near MOCA West, with some great galleries, yet not as pedestrian friendly. Santa Monica has Bergamot Station, which, although difficult for pedestrians to easily get to, is, once there, all easy walking from gallery to gallery, and a great way to spend a part of a day. Downtown L.A. has the Downtown L.A. Art walk, which is today as much party as it is art. Notable galleries here do abound, with CB1 being one of them.

Chinatown; Caryl M. Christian Levy

Chinatown in downtown also has its own little scene and art walk, which I really like. Some of the galleries that have popped up here are really daring and exciting, and the crowd here is very young and hip, where they bounce from dining on dim sum and sipping sake, to taking in the latest avant garde offerings of the Chinatown scene, which is a fusion of Oriental meets America. The work of fine artist and public artist Caryl M. Christian Levy, found at here in Chinatown at 944 Chung King Road, being one such example of galleries here well worth visiting. Caryl's captivating work is uniquely diverse, expertly skilled, and highly impressive.

Frogtown and Guadulesa Rivera

The area of the city here in L.A. known as Frogtown also has a nice little scene going on. My favorite thing about this scene is the name itself, "Frogtown." The Arroyo Arts Collective is another happening which merges multiple neighborhoods into an annual paid art tour which is interesting. Artist Guadulesa Rivera, whose beautiful work can be found at, is one of the top quality artists found here. Guadulesa's great work is widely innovative, and channels the spirit of her Native American Cherokee ancestors, which is deeply personal.
Guadulesa Rivera art sale
Moira Cue

Los Angeles is also home to Moira Cue, whose prolific body of magnificent work began at a very early age, and is truly provocative and powerful. Her work can be seen here and here.

Los Angeles Museums

There are many more I have not even yet explored; Pasadena, Glendale, the East Side, and more. L.A. is so vast, one can live here for years and still find new exploring to do on a regular basis, which is one of the many reasons I love this great city. The art walk scenes are reinforced by many of the magnificent museums here, LACMA, MOCA (three locations of Grand, Little Tokyo, and The Pacific Design Center), The Hammer, The Getty, and many more. And to those new to the museums art scene, the shows change regularly, sometimes as frequent as once a month, with some of the larger galleries having many wings and buildings, with new shows in different areas practically every week, so there is often always something new to see, even at the same museum. Entry to most museums are very reasonable, with parking being nearly as much as the entrance itself. Beware of self-parking around The Hammer. Parking in this area is very tedious, so you are better of paying for the lot and avoiding getting hammered by some outrageous parking ticket by the city.

L.A. Art Show

My favorite art happening in the city, is without a doubt, The Los Angeles Art Show, which is massive, and amazing. If you never thought you could overdose on art, you have never been to one of the major art shows. Taking in a dozen or two images of an artist's personal pain, pleasure, passion, and more for twenty minutes at a typical gallery show may produce little effect. Taking in hundreds or thousands of such images at a massive show such as the L.A. Art Show can range from exhilarating, to the full range emotions for dozens of hours and days on end. It is something quite intense, at times spiritual with certain works, and definitely something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

Peter Kellet

For 18 years The L.A. Art Show has delivered the broadest spectrum of art from across the globe to a diverse and engaged Los Angeles collector base. The Los Angeles Art Show, created by FADA (The Fine Art Dealers Association) is the longest running venue for contemporary, modern, historic and traditional art in the country. The 2013 show hosted more than 100 prominent galleries and drew more than 56,000 visitors.

A major huge, and exciting art event, the 2014 L.A. Art Show will showcase four sections of work: The Modern & Contemporary Section, The Historic & Traditional Contemporary Section, The Vintage Poster Section and The IFPDA Los Angeles Print Fair. The event will feature top galleries and programming, including lectures, tours, special exhibits, and after parties beginning with a benefit Opening Night VIP Premiere Party on January 15th, 2014. The event gets crowded, so arrive early, bring some cash for lunch and parking; there are good dining options within the show itself from multiple food vendors, including some vegetarian fare, and be sure to wear some comfortable walking shoes.

The following video is a fascinating and education lecture from the 2013 L.A. Art Show, titled 'The Joy of Collecting,' but beyond just the joy of collecting, further explores the aspect of 'how' to collect art, and mentions how to some, collecting itself is an art form. The esteemed panel in this nearly one hour long lecture includes Blake Byrne (chair of the acquisition committee of MOCA), fellow renowned collector Clifford Einstein, and is moderated by Bruce Helander.

The L.A. Art Show states, "The city of Los Angeles, long recognized as the entertainment capital of the world is now taking it's place as a cultural mecca, boasting over 300 museums, dozens of distinct ethnic communities, a paradise of perfect weather and one of the world's largest economies. The L.A. Art Show is strategically located at the city's epicenter where the worlds of music, sports, art and theater converge at the highest level. Our home, the Award winning Los Angeles Convention Center is the regions most technologically advanced, architecturally pleasing, and functionally superb venues." They add, "We look forward to playing host to an extraordinary selection of national and international galleries and welcome you to visit the LA Art Show 2014." I truly love the L.A. Art Show. It is an expertly produced event with phenomenal artistic talent from around the world. I highly encourage everyone to attend. Plan on attending for at for least two full days in order to properly see everything.

Los Angeles Art Show: 2014 Show Dates

Thursday, January 16th, 2014,11am - 7pm, Friday, January 17th, 2014 11am - 7pm, Saturday, January 18th, 2014, 11am - 7pm, and Sunday January 19th, 2014, 11am - 5pm.

Visit The Los Angeles Art Show: At The Los Angeles Convention Center South Hall J and K, 1201 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015. For more information, visit:

The Hammer

The Hammer is one of Los Angeles greatest museums, which was founded by Armand Hammer, and is currently an extension of UCLA (The University of Southern California's Branch of the School of Arts and Architecture). The magnificent classical section of the museum, The Armand Hammer section, includes many phenomenal pieces, including one of my favorites, Gustave Moreau's Salome Dancing Before Herod, 1876 (oil on canvas), and works by Vincent van Gogh among more.

Tacitia Dean

The Hammer Museum is also very strong with regard to modern art. It is ending 2013 and beginning 2014 with some strongly impressive shows, starting with a show of classic paintings called Women in Paris. Opening at The Hammer on January 26th, 2014, Berlin based British artist Tacita Dean’s latest film JG will screen. Dean’s 2011 project for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, JG is inspired by her correspondence with British author J. G. Ballard (1930–2009). The film is regarding connections between Ballard's short story “The Voices of Time” (1960) and Robert Smithson’s iconic earthwork and film Spiral Jetty (both works, 1970). The new work is a 35 mm anamorphic film shot on location in the saline landscapes of Utah and central California using Dean’s recently developed and patented system of aperture gate masking.

JG departs from Tacita Dean's previous 16mm films in that it marks a return to voice over and sets out to respond directly to Ballard’s challenge posed to her in a letter written shortly before his death that she should seek to solve the mysteries of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty with her film. The connections between Ballard’s short story, which ends with its main character building a mandala in a dried saline landscape, and Smithson’s earthwork in the Great Salt Lake, are unequivocal. The 26½ minute film is screened continuously in the Hammer’s video gallery during regular museum hours. This is Tacita Dean’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles and is organized by Hammer curator Ali Subotnick.

Tacita Dean is esteemed for her drawings, photographs, prints, and sound works, as well as her artist’s books and texts. She is best known, however, for her films, which she began exhibiting in galleries in the mid 1990. She is fascinated by the dynamics between the materiality of celluloid and the passage of time, which she employs in the service of narrative, however apparent or oblique, and regardless of her subjects, which include artists, anachronistic architecture and landscape. Characterized by static camera positions, long takes and ambient sound, her films are imbued by a stillness that elicits meditative forms of attention.

Dean’s acute regard for light and subtle forms of motion combine to create singular evocations of sensibility and place, the spirit of the moment and the essence of film itself. Dean’s use of aperture gate masking is a labor intensive process, analogous to a form of stenciling, which allows her to use different shaped masks to expose and re-expose the negative within a single film frame. This requires running the unexposed film through the camera multiple times, giving each frame the capacity to traverse time and location in ways that parallel the effects of Ballard’s fiction and Smithson’s earthwork and film. Among the masks used in JG is one that references the template and sprocket holes of a strip of 35mm Ektachrome slide film. The accidental black of the unexposed outlines of the other masks a range of abstract and organic forms that suggest mountain horizons, planets, pools, and Smithson’s Jetty, appear to be traced by hand. A work that could only be made using 35mm film, JG is also about drawing and collage and, as such, strives to return film to the physical, artisanal medium it was at its origin. Made inside the camera entirely while on location, this process serves to restore the spontaneity and invention that distinguished early cinema in comparison to the relative ease and what Dean calls “the end of risk” afforded by digital post production. Through her dedication to the medium of film and filmic techniques of editing and painting on the frame of the film stock, Dean is, like other film auteur's before here, serving as a legitimate voice for the preservation of film and its artistic superiority over digital cinema.

Kelly Nipper

Kelly Nipper

And lastly, on view at the Hammer Museum, December 21st, 2013, is Kelly Nipper's Black Forest, which incorporates painting, drawing, sound art, voice, and dance into multiple mediums of powerful expression. For her project Black Forest, Los Angeles based artist Kelly Nipper creates an environment equally informed by mythology and reality, by history and the present, by movement and objects. The project is inspired in part by the Black Forest, a wooded mountain range in Germany that has spawned a number of legends featuring clairvoyants, magicians, sorcerers, and witches but is perhaps best known for clock making and intricately decorative wood carving. The installation is a landscape of sorts, filled with a variety of objects arranged on tables, resting on the floor, and leaning against or pinned to the walls. It appears to be simultaneously a working studio space, an archive, and a theatrical setting, but might best be understood as a Wunderkammer, literally a “wonder room” a cumulative and layered microcosm always in the process of changing.

Kelly Nipper’s long-standing interest in craft movements has resulted in objects made from hand-dyed textiles, slipcast ceramics, and carved wood. The exhibition also includes a number of drawings of patterns that reflect a grammar of the body’s motion. These patterns are drawn from the artist’s ongoing exploration of the influential movement theories of the Hungarian dancer and choreographer Rudolf Laban, who figured prominently in the development of modern dance in the first half of the 20th century. In its third iteration, presented in the Hammer’s Vault Gallery, Nipper’s Black Forest presents a series of 11 movement performances rooted in a system called Laban Movement Analysis featuring dancer Marissa Ruazol. Black Forest is organized by senior curator Anne Ellegood.

Performance Schedule for Kelly Nippur's Black Forest:

Saturday, December 21st, 12pm and 2pm, Thursday, January 9th, 6pm, Saturday, January 11th, 2pm, Sunday, January 19th, 2pm, Sunday, January, 26th, 2pm, Sunday, February 2nd, 2pm, Sunday, February 9th, 1pm, Thursday, February 13th, 7pm, Thursday, February 20th, 7pm, and Friday, February 21st, at 7pm.

More good news for visitors is that The Hammer Museum will be free for all beginning on February 9th, 2014.

For more information, visit:

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