Flash Art’s Los Angeles Editor on the City’s Collective Momentum

For over four decades, Milan-based Flash Art Magazine has chronicled the contemporary art world—and since 1980, U.S.-based curators and editors including Jeffrey Deitch, Francesco Bonami, Massimiliano Gioni, and currently Nicola Trezzi have lent their voices to the landmark journal. Today, from his post in Los Angeles, the magazine’s Swiss-born L.A. Editor Patrick Steffen is on the front lines of a once isolated, but now thriving, art scene; and it’s the nature of his work to keep his finger on the pulse. Along with the release of Flash Art’s L.A.-focused winter issue, where Steffen mapped new trends by tapping local protagonists, we asked the editor for his take on all things L.A.—including must-see exhibitions, young curators to watch, and the feeling of contagious, collective momentum, reverberating with every new project space, gallery, and museum.

Artsy: What is exciting in the Los Angeles art scene right now?

Patrick Steffen: There is a lot of enthusiasm; you can clearly perceive it while talking to everyone involved in the local art world. Recently, many influential artists who are at the core of important debates moved to the West Coast; prominent local galleries with a strong roster of artists are expanding; others are coming into town for the first time, from NYC or from Europe. Downtown is certainly at the center of this movement, thanks to the cohesive and extremely rich program offered by 356 Mission/Ooga Booga, the Night Gallery, and Francois Ghebaly’s new location with a collective project proposing residencies, offices, a library, and more. We also have newly born The Mistake Room, founded and directed by Cesar Garcia, a sort of kunsthalle-type of space with the ambition to promote a truly international program. Other interesting events will take place soon; among them, the commercial project run by legendary curator Paul Schimmel in partnership with Hauser & Wirth, which will certainly have a major impact on the local scene over the next years.

On the institutional—or semi-institutional—side, The Hammer has announced that starting from February, admission will be free. The Broad Museum will open later this year, also with free admission, making the city’s museum culture more accessible for everyone. MOCA has a new director and very soon will have a new chief curator. By choosing Philippe Vergne as the new director, the MOCA Board of Trustees made an audacious decision that I can only praise, bringing to L.A. an independent candidate.

Artsy: What Los Angeles-based exhibitions and projects are you most looking forward to in 2014?

During January: Art Los Angeles Contemporary, LA Art Book Fair at the Geffen Contemporary, Samara Golden at Night Gallery, Joel Kyack at Francois Ghebaly, Oscar Murillo at The Mistake Room, Nathaniel Mellors at the Hammer, Mai-Thu Perret at Kordansky.

Traveling exhibitions coming to L.A. in 2014: Pierre Huyghe at LACMA; the Mike Kelley retrospective and Francesco Vezzoli’s spectacular project at MOCA.

I believe curators are the key to the development of an art scene, and during 2014, it will be crucial to follow some young and promising curators we are fortunate enough to have in town; Jarrett Gregory at LACMA, Cesar Garcia and the aforementioned The Mistake Room, Aram Moshayedi at the Hammer, Martha Kirszenbaum and her curatorial and residency program called Fahrenheit. It will be also interesting to follow the evolution of Freedman Fitzpatrick gallery and Paradise Garage, which are proposing a very interesting model. Night Gallery is entering its second year of existence as a commercial gallery and Various Small Fires is relocating in Hollywood. Finally, I’m curious to discover Gabriel Kuri’s solo show opening in May at Regen Projects. Kuri just moved to Venice from Brussels, and I’m interested to see how his work will be affected by this change.

Artsy: What should we look out for in the new L.A.-focused issue of Flash Art?

PS: The current January-February issue combines some of the most interesting artists with some of the most brilliant writers and curators in L.A. The result is a very sophisticated issue, with much attention, as usual, to the layout and the design as well. Independent curator Douglas Fogle interviews Kaari Upson whose oeuvre—consisting of monumental installations and sculptures that mix the personal and the vernacular, craft and digital—has made her one of the most remarkable voices in Los Angeles. The second main feature presents the multifaceted work of Amy Yao, through an essay written by USC scholar and philosopher Noura Wedell. We then present painter Laura Owens talking to young emerging artist Joel Kyack, an exclusive portfolio of images by Sam Falls, entitled Sound and Vision, and three critical insights on Sterling Ruby, whose practice has become a sort of manifesto of a new generation of artists working in Los Angeles. The issue also features Robert Heinecken, gallerist Shaun Regen, and a conversation with the seminal figure of the French experimental movie scene Agnès Varda, whose peculiar and unique relationship with the city began in the 70s. Finally, mapping the new trends in town, “Five questions about LA” is a questionnaire involving several protagonists of the city cultural landscape. By collecting, reading, and editing the answers received, I personally learned more about the city than during my all stay. You will find all this and more in the current issue of Flash Art, witnessing, on the whole, the vitality of a dynamic and eclectic art scene. L.A., the future is bright!

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