L.A. Is on Fire!
A few years ago I did a round of studio visits in Culver City (with artists in UCLA's MFA painting program) and got the sense that the museums were teaming up with the universities and galleries in an all-out effort to work together the way said entities do in New York and London. What started as a buzz about the newer galleries opening up in Chinatown had already begun to draw dealers from along the West Coast to L.A. (Peres Projects and Lizabeth Oliveria, for example, both moved from San Francisco). Now it's drawing gallerists from New York; Q.E.D. (no website yet), KantorFeuer, and MC (no website yet) galleries are all indications that even New York dealers see room to grow there (here's a good overall list of the galleries in L.A.).
In the spirit of neighborhoods like SoHo and Williamsburg, which opened galleries where the artists were, Los Angeles' newest destination for galleries seems to be Culver City. Here's a map from Lizabeth Oliveria's website showing who's now located there (and I know of a few others new spaces who aren't on this map, like D.E.N. and Western Project):
But all the galleries in the world would not have changed L.A.'s second-tier status had another important change not taken place. L.A. grads and soon-to-be grads are becoming as hot as any of the prodigies at Columbia or Yale. Sure, we've always had stars emerge from Cal-Arts, UCLA or Art Center, but nowhere near in the volume we're seeing them fly out of those institutions now. Today's International Herald Tribune picks up a great article about this first published in The New York Times over 4th of July weekend (during which time I was blissfully unaware on a beach, so forgive me if this is old news):
The rise of the California art schools has been several decades in the making. Ever since Ed Ruscha drove a black Ford from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles in 1956 to attend Chouinard (now CalArts), the schools have drawn major talent. But it wasn't until the late 1980s, when the artists Chris Burden, Nancy Rubins, Charles Ray and Paul McCarthy had all joined the faculty at UCLA, that the city's leading programs began to ignite national interest.
Today, it's hard to imagine the local art scene without the schools. "Most every gallery in L.A. has some recent M.F.A. grads," said Martin, the Santa Monica dealer.
Even blue-chip galleries like L.A. Louver, which represents David Hockney, have been getting in on the action; it just opened "Rogue Wave," a survey of emerging and midcareer Los Angeles artists that runs through Sept. 3. Of the 19 artists in the show, 14 earned Master of Fine Arts degrees at local schools, including the installation artist Karl Haendel (UCLA) and the painters Tomory Dodge and Violet Hopkins (both CalArts).
The article's full of quotes and notes about how the white hot art market is driving part of this frenzy, but as much as the institutions there suggest they're aware of the dangers of accelerating careers prematurely...
"I've seen premature arrogance, and I've seen premature disillusionment," said Thomas Lawson, dean of the School of Art at CalArts.
"Students may get instant gratification from having early gallery shows, but the art market is a very cruel and impersonal thing. It's very easy to find yourself dropped by that market. If you're dropped before the age of 25, it can be devastating."
...a good friend of mine who signed up for UCLA's MFA program specifically because they had promised her she would be free to experiment, said a high-up administrator in the department insisted she be working toward her first solo show in an L.A. gallery. When she called them on it, reminding them why she went there, she was told, more or less, "That's just what we tell prospective students." My friend's currently working happily in a quite place in Europe, away from that sort of pressure.
Of course, being in New York, where galleries are gonna have to start scouting the local high schools to outdo ourselves, I have little room to talk (and I'll admit to a bit of jealousy that L.A.'s getting all this attention), but eventually the corrections will come, and it's best for everyone to keep in mind why they make or deal in art in the first place.