Frieze L.A. 2024: Highlights From the Fair

Frieze Los Angeles opened on Thursday busier than ever.

The fair was quickly filled an hour into the VIP morning time, kicking off at 10 a.m. with a long line out the door at Santa Monica Airport. Inside the tent, it was buzzing.

Standing out among the artists on display was Gary Tyler, working at the intersection of art and social justice. He taught himself to quilt, creating works reflecting the years behind him.

“My work is basically a manifestation of my past and present life,” said Tyler, who’s represented by the Detroit-based gallery Library Street Collective.

Back in 1974, while a high schooler in Louisiana, he was among Black students on a bus attacked by a white mob angered by school integration. A young white boy was shot and killed as a result. At the age of 16, Tyler was tried as an adult and reportedly wrongly convicted of first-degree murder for the crime by an all-white jury. He was the youngest person on death row when he entered Louisiana State Penitentiary, where he spent 42 years before being released at age 57.

“This piece is shown as an exhibit of me getting on death row,” he said of a black-and-white quilt on the wall, depicting a body behind bars. “That’s my death row number, C 127. And this is the cell I was in, cell 8.”

Of a piece on the end, a self-portrait with his hands crossed, he said: “This one, sitting down, it’s a reflection that I’m talking through with someone.”

Now 65, Tyler is living and working in L.A. His work is in the collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. He’s a Right of Return Fellow, which is aimed at advancing criminal and racial justice, and winner of the 2024 Frieze Impact Prize, in partnership with the Center for Art & Advocacy.

Gary Tyler

Artist Gary Tyler alongside one of his quilts, a self-portrait, at Frieze L.A.

Bethany Mollenkof/WWD

“It’s an honor being recognized for my works,” he added. “It was never my intention to travel down that road, but sometimes people don’t have control of their future or how their future turns out.”

As Frieze L.A. continues to grow, now in its fifth edition, there’s a commitment to shedding light on pressing social issues as part of its programming, as well as a bigger emphasis on West Coast art. For Jessica Silverman — the name behind the celebrated contemporary art gallery in San Francisco — the focus is on women this year.

“We’re showing all women,” she said. “And that sort of just happened naturally when I started thinking about the booth in terms of landscape, initially.”

The space featured worked by artists Hayal Pozanti and Rupy C. Tut.

“I’m thinking a lot about, with this booth, how working women, mothers, rest and find moments of repose,” Silverman explained.

Jessica Silverman

Jessica Silverman, seen with bronze bells by Davina Semo.

Bethany Mollenkof/WWD

At the center hung bronze bells by Davina Semo.

“They may feel like a loud cacophony, but actually, when you ring the bell, it’s a zen moment. So even amidst this kind of hectic fair, people get to feel something in their body and have a moment of breath,” she went on. “We used to just ring them when there was a sale, but now they’re just ringing, sales or not.”

Up for sale, front and center, was “Heights” by Rose B. Simpson, a more than four-foot-tall sculpture made of clay, glaze, twine and silver.

“It’s significant because Rose is a single mother,” Silverman said. “She talks a lot about the view that she wants her daughter to have of the world in front of her. And so this idea of seeing above the head of the mother, putting the daughter on her shoulders, this kind of headdress signifies this idea that our youth can see beyond what we see as adults. That really is the vision of the future.”

The fair united more than 95 exhibitors from 21 countries, with nearly 50 percent dedicated to galleries operating in the Greater L.A. area.

“I have to say, San Francisco has also just descended on L.A.,” Silverman added. “At my hotel for breakfast I saw, like, 20 collectors. So that’s also exciting for me, that people are coming here.”

Christine Messineo, Frieze’s director of Americas, and Essence Harden, the visual arts curator of the California African American Museum, are behind the expansion — showcasing a mix of known names and up-and-comers. Harden was tapped to oversee “Focus,” a section highlighting U.S. galleries that have been in operation for 12 years or less. There are 12 in total, with eight of them making their Frieze debuts, including L.A.-based Babst Gallery, Matthew Brown and Dominique Gallery. They showed alongside major international exhibitors, including Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Pace Gallery, White Cube and David Zwirner.

“I think I’m about a third of the way through,” said Joanne Heyler, founding director and president of The Broad, downtown L.A.’s contemporary art museum cofounded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad.

“What is really standing out to me is that it feels very focused and disciplined this year,” she went on, walking the fair on opening day. “And not just in terms of a selection of galleries, but also in terms of what the galleries are putting up. And there’s much more of a feeling that each booth, whether it’s multi-artists, or whether it’s a single artist, is thoughtful and easier on the eyes than some other art fairs that I’ve been to in the past. And so I’m really pleased to see that.”

Fourteen exhibitors were new to Frieze L.A., with a strong representation from Asia.

“We’re very excited to be in L.A.,” said art dealer and gallery owner Tina Kim, who’s based in New York.

Known for introducing Asian artists to the U.S. market, the spotlight in her booth was on South Korean artists Ha Chong-Hyun, Mire Lee, Suki Seokyeong Kang and Gimhongsok. She was also celebrating Filipino artist Pacita Abad, whose show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will soon open at MoMA PS1 in Queens. Abad’s work will be shown at the Venice Biennale this year.

Tina Kim

Tina Kim

Bethany Mollenkof/WWD

“When I come to L.A., I am very excited to see the institutions here and their focus,” she said, highlighting the “Only the Young” show at the Hammer Museum — the first exhibition in North America to explore art emerging in South Korea in the decades following the Korean War. She had three artists represented in the show, which debuted at the Guggenheim in New York before traveling to L.A.

“You know, I think it really shows with Hammer bringing the ‘Only the Young’ show — ICA [Institute of Contemporary Art] has an Asian American art show right now and MOCA with Clara Kim [as chief curator and director of curatorial affairs], they have a very powerful Paul Pfeiffer show — West Coast museums are really looking into diversity and making research-focused exhibitions, which is very exciting for me,” she added.

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