Once upon a time, there was just one big international art fair. Of course I'm talking about the one and only Venice Biennale. But then, after World War II, the art market expanded and things got out of hand. Big commercial art fairs started to multiply, to the point that today, no one can say precisely how many take place around the world each year. Hundreds? No, more like thousands.
So far, here in LA, none of the art fairs have established a strong international reputation. But things are starting to look promising. Last year, the new ambitious art fair, Art Platform Los Angeles, was inaugurated in the commercial heart of Downtown. This year, its organizers made a better choice of location -- the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica Airport. Its cavernous space was smartly transformed by the Los Angeles architectural firm Frederick Fisher and Partners, well known for working on a number of art museums and other cultural projects.
But listen to this--in April of next year, Paris Photo, the highest profile European art fair specializing in fine art photography, is making a leap of faith by expanding its operation away from its home at the Grand Palais in Paris. And where are they moving?
Yes, believe it or not, to Los Angeles. Talk about a love affair between Paris and LA! In 2006 our French friends at the Pompidou Center paid a unique homage to Los Angeles as one of the major post World War II art capitals. And now, not only are the French bringing their prestigious Paris Photo here, but the choice of space that they made is nothing short of visionary--the sound stage of Paramount Studio, the very heart of old Hollywood.
Only a few decades ago, photography was considered the stepchild of serious art. Now, its international prestige is unassailable. Today, the MacArthur Foundation announced the winners of its prestigious "genius" award and Uta Barth, well-known Los Angeles photographer, is one of the proud recipients. There is no doubt in my mind that her works will be one of the highlights of the upcoming Paris Photo LA.
If we are lucky, another adventurous exhibition from France will come to our City of Angels. You've heard of the famous, paleolithic Lascaux Cave paintings that were discovered in 1940, but since the 1980's have been closed to the public in an attempt to preserve their fragile images. During my recent press trip to France, I had the chance to see the surprisingly faithful copy, created in walking distance from the original. I went there as a skeptic but left fully converted, having been immensely impressed by the recreation of the cavernous space and the authenticity of the whole experience. An ambitious traveling exhibition, dedicated to Lascaux, just opened in the city of Bordeaux and is scheduled to travel next year to Chicago and Montreal. Los Angeles is among the other cities being considered to host this exhibition. So let's keep our fingers crossed.
And talking about France...On the way to Lascaux, I stumbled upon what felt like a dramatic recreation of one of Anselm Kiefer's tragic landscapes--an expansive field of dying sunflowers, stretching all the way to the horizon. Until recently, this German artist, before he moved to Paris, lived in the French countryside, so there is no doubt in my mind that a similar field of dead sunflowers was a source of his inspiration.
The first time I "traveled" to Paris was with Hemingway as my guide. I was still living in Russia and I read, in translation, his Movable Feast. This summer, strolling through the Tuileries Garden, I came upon a scene that, for me, embodies the magic of Paris: mid-afternoon; a few people happily resting on the lawn, surrounded by the remnants of their picnic; large statue by Aristide Maillol, looking slightly perturbed, presiding over the scene. Movable Feast indeed...
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.
Banner Image: (L) The Grand Palais, Paris, France; copyright © 2005 David Monniaux (R) The Paramount Studio Gates, Los Angeles, California