Art Market

What Sold at Frieze Los Angeles

Benjamin Sutton
Feb 17, 2020 4:37PM

Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh/Frieze.

The second edition of Frieze Los Angeles was a rare sequel that surpassed the original. By the time the credits rolled on Frieze L.A.’s sophomore outing at Paramount Pictures Studios on Sunday evening, an impressive coterie of Hollywood royalty and West Coast mega-collectors had passed through its booths and studio backlot installations. More importantly, galleries of every size and place of origin had made sales, with a few of the most high-profile exhibitors selling works for seven-digit prices that would be standouts at any established mega-fair, but are all the more impressive at this upstart outpost of the British-born Frieze franchise.

“Prices have been increasing; we’ve seen multiple sales this year over $1 million, so there’s a sense that the fair has grown,” said Victoria Siddall, global director of Frieze Fairs. “It’s been great hearing from the biggest galleries that they’re making sales, but also from a lot of smaller galleries—like those in the Focus L.A. sector for local galleries under 15 years old—that they’re making a lot of sales or selling out their booths entirely.”

Frieze L.A.’s effect on Los Angeles galleries also extended beyond the fair’s booths. Out in the brick-and-mortar spaces around the city, foot traffic spiked last week from the influx of collectors, curators, dealers, and artists.

Installation of Pace Gallery and Kayne Griffin Corcoran’s Booth at Frieze Los Angeles, 2020. Photo by Flying Studio. Courtesy of the galleries.


“Galleries are telling me they’re seeing lots of crowds coming to see their shows; artists are telling me they’re having great studio visits with collectors who are in town; there are lots of great artists at the fair,” said Bettina Korek, the outgoing executive director of Frieze Los Angeles (she starts her new role as the CEO of London’s Serpentine Galleries next month). “There’s been a lot of interest in the Los Angeles art scene in recent years, and part of the fair’s success is that it’s an invitation to L.A. for people who’ve been curious about the city, but haven’t come here yet.”

The fair also drew in Southern California’s cast of major art collectors. Edythe Broad, Joel Wachs, Maria Hummer-Tuttle, Susan Bay Nimoy (Leonard Nimoy’s widow), and many others turned up for the fair’s preview on Thursday. The fair’s most surprising purchase was made that day by reality TV star and model Kendall Jenner, who was among the local buyers of new works by James Turrell from Pace Gallery and Kayne Griffin Corcoran’s ambitious joint booth.

Avery Singer, Jordan, 2019. © Avery Singer. Photo by Lance Brewer. Courtesy of the artist, Hauser & Wirth, and Kraupa-Tuskany Ziedler, Berlin.

“This is just more validation that L.A. can sustain a major art fair,” said William Hathaway of Night Gallery, which was showing works by Mira Dancy and Anne Libby in the Focus L.A. sector. “Last year was good, but my sense is that this year, both collectors and galleries are taking it very seriously. When you see galleries bringing things like the Richard Prince car [on view in Gagosian’s booth], you know it’s major.”

While elsewhere, the art market faced its fair share of tumult—from the lackluster auctions in London to the cancelation of Art Basel in Hong Kong amid the coronavirus outbreak—things appeared to be business as usual at Frieze Los Angeles. Major deals were reported throughout the fair, with star sales including:

  • David Zwirner reported more than $6 million in sales on the first day of the fair, including an enormous Neo Rauch painting from 2011, Aprilnacht, which sold for $2 million. The gallery also sold two Carol Bove works for $500,000 apiece, five Lisa Yuskavage paintings priced between $120,000 and $1 million, and a piece by recent Turner Prize co-recipient Oscar Murrillo for $350,000.
  • Gladstone Gallery sold a painting by Keith Haring for $3.75 million.
Neo Rauch
Aprilnacht, 2011
David Zwirner
Lisa Yuskavage
Photoshoot (Magenta), 2019
David Zwirner
  • Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac sold Robert Rauschenberg’s Bowery Parade (Borealis) (1989), a work executed on a brass plate, for $1.35 million on the first day of the fair. The gallery also sold Alex Katz’s 2018 portrait of his wife, Ada, for $550,000; a large ink-and-charcoal work by Robert Longo, Study of Grey Wolf (2019), for $120,000; and Ali Banisadr’s 2019 painting The Serpent and the Key for $100,000.
  • Blum & Poe, the gallery based in L.A., New York, and Tokyo, sold out its booth during the fair’s opening day, selling a Mark Grotjahn painting for $600,000 and Henry Taylor paintings for prices ranging between $100,000 and $120,000, among other works.
Paul McCarthy
SC Saloon Triptych, 2013
Xavier Hufkens
  • Hauser & Wirth sold out its solo booth of recent works by Avery Singer, the young painter who joined the mega-gallery’s roster in December. The works, priced between $85,000 and $495,000, were acquired by international collectors and an American institution.
  • Brussels-based gallery Xavier Hufkens had huge success with L.A.–based artists. The gallery sold a Sterling Ruby painting for $350,000, as well as four ceramic works by the artist for $45,000 apiece; two works on paper by Paul McCarthy for $250,000 and $200,000; all three editions of a Thomas Houseago sculpture, for $175,000 each; and a Llyn Foulkes piece for $95,000.
Nick Cave
Arm Peace, 2018
Jack Shainman Gallery
Idris Khan
65,000 Photographs (Maquette), 2019
Victoria Miro
  • Victoria Miro’s solo booth of sculptures, paintings, and works on paper by Idris Khan was a hit, with 17 works selling for prices between $30,000 and $150,000 on the fair’s first day. The gallery ultimately found buyers for every work in the booth.
  • New York’s Jack Shainman Gallery sold the showstopping basketball painting by the late, great Barkley L. Hendricks, Father, Son, and… (1969), for an undisclosed price. (The gallery noted that his “major paintings” typically sell for figures between $1.5 million and $5 million.) It also sold Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s new painting Seven Stitches South (2020) for $325,000 and the Nick Cave sculpture Arm Peace (2018) for $110,000.

Installation view of Gagosian’s booth at Frieze Los Angeles, 2020. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh/Frieze.

“We’ve met some new collectors and made some sales to collectors we’ve been in touch with in the past, but had never actually sold works to, which has been really gratifying,” said Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels, a director at Jack Shainman Gallery. “There’s a really good community of collectors here, and it’s getting stronger; the interest and engagement is really impressive.”

A popular topic at fair booths was the adventurous and diverse tastes of local L.A. collectors. South Korea’s Kukje Gallery, for instance, sold works by standbys Ugo Rondinone and Julian Opie, but also sold all the works it was offering by Suki Seokyeong Kang, a Seoul-based artist currently having a solo show at L.A. gallery Commonwealth and Council.

“There’s been a lot of interest in our Korean artists—lots of good sales,” said Joorhee Kwon, the deputy director of public relations at Kukje Gallery. “The interest has been very diverse, even more so than last year.”

Suki Seokyeong Kang
Tender Meander #19-07, 2018-2019
Kukje Gallery
Julian Opie
Striped shorts., 2018
Kukje Gallery

Other dealers noted the synergy of local museum and gallery exhibitions leading to sales at the fair, and vice versa.

“We just opened a solo show of Calida Rawles’s work at the gallery,” said Kaitlyn Mar of Various Small Fires, which is headquartered in Hollywood and has a space in Seoul. “So for collectors who come to the fair but maybe haven’t visited our gallery before, they have a chance to really see the artist’s full range there.”

The gallery sold out its solo booth featuring Rawles’s hyperrealist paintings of submerged figures in the fair’s Focus L.A. sector. Rawles’s work also adorns the cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new novel The Water Dancer (2019), and both she and Coates spoke on a panel at the fair on Saturday that was moderated by Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Christine Y. Kim.

Calida Rawles
Lightness of Being, 2018

Various Small Fires was one of several L.A. galleries reporting strong sales and sold-out booths at the fair. Other local success stories included:

Installation view of Charlie James Gallery’s booth at Frieze Los Angeles, 2020. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh / Frieze.

  • Anat Ebgi sold all the paintings by Greg Ito in its solo booth during the fair’s first day, with works priced between $7,500 and $12,000.
  • L.A. Louver’s solo booth of works by Alison Saar struck a chord: At the end of the fair’s first day, the gallery had sold nine works out of its booth, one of them to an important American foundation.
  • Château Shatto sold out its two-artist booth in the Focus L.A. sector featuring works by Aria Dean and Helen Johnson.
  • The Pit gallery sold all six of the paintings in its Jaime Muñoz solo booth, priced at $9,000 each.
Greg Ito
Promised Land, 2020
Anat Ebgi
Jaime Muñoz
Sociological Imagination, 2020
The Pit

Throughout the fair, galleries from across the city, the country, and the world found success with a huge range of work, from paintings and photography to ceramic, bronze, and installation pieces. Some works—like a Harold Ancart painting of a tropical-looking tree in the David Zwirner booth, or a piece by the collective Superflex on view in Kukje Gallery’s booth that featured the phrase “The Show Must Go On” in bright blue letters—seemed laser-targeted to appeal to L.A. sensibilities. Kukje Gallery sold multiple editions of the Superflex piece; Zwirner sold the Ancart painting for $200,000. But the local collector base’s tastes proved eclectic, original, and unpredictable.

“The presentations at the fair have really challenged the notion that there’s some very specific style of Angeleno art,” said Nichole Caruso, a director at Alexander Gray Associates, whose booth was anchored with a major installation by the Cuban artist Ricardo Brey.

For Korek, Frieze Los Angeles’s ability to bring together art-curious celebrities, mega-collectors, museum curators, local artists, and regular Angelenos is a testament to the L.A. art scene’s current momentum.

“I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to get certain people to come visit L.A. museums,” she said, “and some of the folks who never returned those calls are turning up for the fair.”

Korek has gotten Frieze L.A. off the ground and on a path to success in just two years, convincing power players to turn up to support L.A. galleries and artists. Whoever steps into her role for the third edition will have strong momentum to build upon. As recent box office trends have shown, Hollywood loves a good franchise.

Benjamin Sutton