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Lights, Camera, Action: Take Two

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Now that all the prayers, celebrations, and wonderful food of last week's Passover and Easter are behind us, it's time to get back to business. And I mean the business of art. Two ambitious cultural events take place this week in LA. And, if you consider yourself to be an adventurous and curious art aficionado, these events are simply a must.

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Paris Photo, the most ambitious international photographic art fair, returns to Paramount Studios for its second installment of Paris Photo Los Angeles (April 25 - 27, 2014). There are over 80 major art dealers from around the world showing a wide variety of modern and contemporary photography, and if last year was any indication, we can expect a few dealers to once again put on dramatic and theatrical presentations.

Just a few decades ago, photography was still considered the stepchild of fine art --few museums and collectors paid any attention to the medium. Today, it's quite a different story. If you are still uncertain about your feelings towards photography, let me assure you: spending a few hours on the historical sound stages of Paramount Studios --temporarily transformed into a photographic heaven --would definitely be worthy of your time. And besides, how often do we have a chance to walk through the gates of Paramount Studios and mingle with the memories and spirits of Hollywood deities? You can check out the Paris Photo LA website to learn about the variety of lectures, seminars, and events taking place during the three days of the fair.

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And here is another event that simply must be on your agenda this week. The Santa Monica Museum of Art, which I like to refer to as "The Little Engine That Could," celebrates its 10th Incognito. This is an annual fundraiser that attracts an ever-growing crowd of art collectors --both experienced and novice --who pay $100 for the right to be among those who will arrive to the museum this coming Saturday well before doors open at 7 PM. Looking at the crowd standing in line, you might be surprised to notice that a lot of otherwise smartly-dressed ladies are wearing sneakers. And there is a very good reason for this: the moment that the doors open, the guests literally start to run as if they are competing in a 100-yard dash.

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So what's the rush? OK. Would you like to be the lucky one that manages to grab off the shelf a small original work by a famous or up and coming artist who donated these works for this fundraiser? Among those 550 artists are John Baldessari, Catherine Opie, Ed Ruscha, Betye Saar, Mark Bradford, and Laura Owens, just to name a few. But here is the gimmick: none of these artworks are labeled. You, my friends, are on your own. You simply must trust your eye and your instinct to snatch the work that instantaneously grabs you're attention.

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But wait. You cannot remove the work from the shelf; instead, you are only allowed to take the white circular tag attached to the artwork and bring it up to the cashier. There, you pay $350. And only then and there do you find out the name of the artist whose work you snatched up. I remember visiting a number of LA collectors who proudly showed me their precious trophies from past Incognitos.

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Yesterday, I had the chance to pop in to SMMoA's galleries and to take a few photos while the installation of the 700+ artworks was still in progress. If you don't get my Art Talk newsletter with all the photos, check out the KCRW website to get a sneak preview of this year's Incognito. Take a look at the T-shirts with the special logo designed for this event by one of LA's most interesting painters, Henry Taylor. And what about the several hundred brightly colored glasses, which bring to mind famous Venetian glass from Murano? I was pleasantly surprised to learn that these gorgeous glasses were made here in LA in partnership with the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, and involved a number of children.

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So my friends, brace yourselves for the art hunting and art bumping here in LA in the days to come.

P.S. If you want to learn about Edward's Fine Art of Art Collecting Classes, please visit his website here. You can also read The New York Times article about his classes here.

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Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.