“It hasn’t aged a bit—if anything, it looks better now,” said Iwan Wirth, who’s worked with McCarthy since 1998.
And if you need more, LA will also soon be home to Luna Luna, an ambitious project that will rehab an artist-created theme park once housed in Hamburg, Germany, set to feature a ferris wheel by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a carousel by Keith Haring. The investors—led by Drake—hope it can be an experiential art project taken seriously by the gallery crowd. Judging by a visit to its current half-assembled state in a downtown hangar, the investors shouldn’t be losing sleep.
And along with new galleries and museums and large-scale art projects, more collectors are needed—more clients to see work in person and buy on impulse, more patrons to give work to institutions in exchange for future spots on their boards. True, there have always been art collectors in Los Angeles. Vincent Price amassed Impressionist masterpieces in the early days of Hollywood, and then in the ’60s the Nathansons established a bonkers Pop collection. But the city has lacked the lineage of philanthropy that runs so deep through Wall Street’s ruling families and the clans that control New York’s real estate billions.
There is an opening in Los Angeles to do just that. The 2021 death of collector Eli Broad has created a void that’s hard to overstate—he was the longtime board chair of LACMA and the founder of MOCA and then the founder of The Broad, across the street from MOCA. Over the course of 50 years, Broad amassed a singular collection, and generously loaned out work to local institutions. The Broad’s 50,000 square feet of exhibition space can only fit so much, and as if to lay bare its holdings, much of the work not on display can be seen slotted into storage through portholes on the stairs.
“Broad was like Getty,” said François Ghebaly, who recently opened a second gallery in town. “There are big shoes to be filled.”
David Kordansky may look younger than his years, so I was somewhat taken aback to be reminded that this October marks the 20th anniversary of the gallery in LA, started by the dealer in Chinatown in 2003. Now, he acknowledges that he’s something of an ambassador to Los Angeles, showing the rest of the world that it’s possible to build a successful gallery program in town. First, they have to understand that, despite the climate appeal, foot traffic here is a far cry from that in Manhattan.
“I’m all for it, for galleries to come out West—isn’t that the California ideal?” Kordansky said. “It’s been incredible to see this art scene become what it is today. But it’s still not New York, where we recently opened a gallery. It’s a totally different landscape there. On a weekly basis, we’re looking at 150 to 200 visitors in LA versus 2,500 in Chelsea.”
Kordansky was sitting in his office in the back of the gallery, which was expanded in 2020 by architect Kulapat Yantrasast, who has also designed every single big white Frieze tent. Around the room were small works by a number of artists in the program, along with many, many Grateful Dead grails. A quick selection: the amp Jerry Garcia used to record American Beauty, and a guitar given to him by Bob Weir, whom Kordansky considers a friend.
Ghebaly had been eyeing expansion for years, but didn’t pull the trigger until he found a space in Hollywood, where a critical mass of galleries has assembled in the past few years.
“There’s something exciting about being closer to a powerful collection of galleries. It felt right,” Ghebaly said.
Ghebaly and I were having a sunny outdoor lunch at Petit Trois, a snails-and-steaks joint for the anti-Erewhon set originally opened by Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo, and Ludo Lefebvre, before Lefebvre bought them out. Shook and Dotolo got their start catering for the art collectors Benedikt and Lauren Taschen—now, with an empire built behind the red-sauce joint Jon & Vinny’s, they’ve become collectors themselves.
As the week got started, collectors began opening up their homes and venturing down from their mansions nestled into the hills and overlooking the canyons. On Sunday, NBA courtside superfan James Goldstein had a swank shindig at his John Lautner–designed home in Bel-Air, famous as a location in The Big Lebowski. Collector Jason Swartz was on hosting duty, and locals such as Jason Rubell and Beth Rudin DeWoody rolled through to gawk at the infinity-pool views of the city and smack a few balls on the rooftop tennis court. On Monday, those who managed to get out of the Getty Villa bonanza early headed to a dinner for Joel Mesler at the Maybourne Beverly Hills—spotted were record exec turned collector Josh Abraham and the actor Lake Bell. On Tuesday, the collector Jeff Magid opened up his Hollywood Hills home to visitors, who saw works by John Baldessari, Miriam Cahn, and Rick Lowe, and Magid talked about the massive gallery and artist residency he’s opening next year in Mexico City’s arty Condesa neighborhood. There was Frieze’s bash at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Lisson Gallery’s dinner at El Carmen, but many went home early to get ready for Wednesday morning’s opening of Felix, the fair that camps out at the groovy Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Collector Marty Eisenberg was at a cabana checking out the booth of New York gallery Broadway while pale New Yorkers clamored to snag deck chairs lining the Hockney-painted pool.
And Wednesday night, after openings at Sprüth Magers (the great German provocateur Anne Imhof) and UTA Artist Space (the late, great Ernie Barnes) there was a cocktail party hosted by Kordansky at the Hotel Bel-Air, the Beverly Hills Hotel’s sister pad set deep in the Santa Monica Mountains, so removed from the Hollywood hubbub it’s practically a destination resort. There, Gagosian’s Antwaun Sargent sipped a negroni with Awol Erizku as Kordansky chatted with Dallas collectors Eric and Debbie Green. The party was celebrating a solo booth of new paintings by Chase Hall, which had already sold out, with many works going to institutions.
And then Gladstone Gallery hosted a select few at the hot spot Gigi’s to celebrate a show of work by Alex Katz at the Schindler House, the Hollywood home designed by Rudolph Schindler, who lived there with his fellow architect Richard Neutra until they had a bitter falling-out. The masterful paintings—depicting Sunrise Ruffalo, the actress and shop owner who’s married to Mark Ruffalo—dominated the small house, a rare example of an intimate hang in a city so dominated by massive venues.
The nonagenarian Katz flew in for the occasion, and there to give him a big LA hello was his longtime dealer, Gavin Brown. Also around were the artists Arthur Jafa and Frances Stark, as well as collector Kris Jenner, flanked by a bodyguard. Unless you were still among the unbelievers, Ashley Benson and Brandon Davis looked very much a couple. Dealer Loic Gouzer sat with his old pal DiCaprio, whose date looked much older than 25: his mom. It was, in fact, Leo’s mom’s birthday, and at one point, the servers wheeled over a candle-bedecked cake, all singing “Happy Birthday” to her, to Irmelin Indenbirken’s delight. The artist Hope Atherton held court at a table with Derek Blasberg and Gladstone president Max Falkenstein. Actor Jennifer Lawrence, who is married to Gladstone director Cooke Maroney, also snuggled into the booth.
After dinner, the collector Maria Bell and the dealer Thaddaeus Ropac asked if I wanted a ride to the Serpentine party, held at the Walmart heiress Sybil Robson Orr’s compound in the Bird Streets. Then I was in a black car winding its way through the streets and up the mountain that rises over the Sunset Strip. Upon arrival, about a thousand dealers and collectors and European hangers-on were carousing by the infinity pool.
“When I was the chair of MOCA, we spent so much time telling people that LA was the center of culture,” Bell told me as the Cadillac approached the long driveway, where golf carts would ferry us up to the house. “And now it really happened.”
The next morning, Frieze Los Angeles finally opened at the Santa Monica Airport, spanning both the Barker Hangar and a custom-built tent next to the Museum of Flying. It was both the culmination of the week but also of an art fair that is still competing for attention. Within the scrum of dealers manning already sold-out booths and advisers wheeling around their clients, a picture of the past, present, and future of LA art-collecting started to come into view.
Michael Ovitz, who bought so much in the 1990s he convinced Arne Glimcher to open a gallery out West, waltzed through the Hauser & Wirth booth, sunglasses on. With his thousands-deep trove of artworks, Ovitz is one of the city’s best collectors, even if sources have said he’s slowed down his buying in recent years. Shelli Azoff has been collecting for decades with her husband, the music exec Irving Azoff, and she said she bought a painting by Sayre Gomez at the Ghebaly booth—“it was a trophy, a real trophy,” she noted. Standing with her adviser, Meredith Darrow, Azoff casually mentioned that she also snapped up works by Yoshitomo Nara and Asuka Anastacia Ogawa. As the fair grew more packed by the minute, the old-school collectors started to pop up one by one: Susan and David Gersh, the Marciano brothers, Peter and Jill Kraus, Lynda Resnick, as well as Eli Broad’s widow, Edythe.
And there were the slightly younger collectors. Emanuel came early, bought a brilliant painting by Bob Thompson at the Michael Rosenfeld booth, and then strolled toward the exit hand in hand with his wife, Sarah Staudinger, stopping to say hello to Studio Museum director Thelma Golden. Many sources said that Tyler, the Creator, has become an ubiquitous figure on the scene in LA, and he spent much of the preview chopping it up with Chase Hall in the Kordansky booth. Paltrow, who stepped up her involvement with the fair by hosting the Frieze kickoff, walked the aisle between Gagosian and David Zwirner with an adviser in tow. J. Patrick Collins, the young oil and gas executive who’s mostly based in Dallas and is often cited as one of the more ambitious young collectors anywhere, was spotted in the Zwirner booth as well. Richelieu Dennis, the CEO of Sundial and mentee of private equity billionaire Robert Smith, was spotted stalking the aisles. And while we have disturbingly few details about the collection of Bobby Flay, god of food, he was certainly spotted at the roti stand outside the fair.