With seventy galleries and a sell-out crowd, Frieze LA 2019 proved there is a growing appetite for contemporary art on the West Coast of the U.S.
Such was the buzz around the first ever Frieze Los Angeles that not even a freak series of rainstorms could keep people away. Running from February 14-17 (sandwiched squarely between the Grammys and the Oscars), in the famous Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood, Frieze’s new venture proved to be a vibrant addition to the art fair circuit, drawing together international collectors, blue-chip galleries and a host of celebrities.
While the main fair was housed in Frieze’s signature white custom-designed tent, it was the setting of the Studios that provided the fair with a unique LA identity. With the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Lounge situated in the lobby of the iconic Paramount Theatre, and the fair’s program of events and artist installations in the New York street-scene of the studio backlot, this was a location that created some unique opportunities for exhibition design.
The Los Angeles edition of Frieze, while smaller than its London and New York siblings, attracted a sell-out crowd of 30,000 visitors over the fair’s duration. Many galleries brought the ‘best of the best’ from their rosters, and reported strong sales from both existing and new collectors. The smaller selection of galleries also meant that the fair’s atmosphere was one of in-depth engagement, and the decision to show auxiliary projects, talks and screenings in the backlot made for a refreshing and immersive experience.
The decision to expand to Los Angeles was fully supported by Deutsche Bank, which has acted as the fair’s Global Lead Partner since 2004 via its Art, Culture & Sports department. “The partnership with Frieze for us is so exciting because it gives us an opportunity to engage clients on something they are really passionate about, and that we are really passionate about – which is art,” explains Fabrizio Campelli, Global Head, Deutsche Bank Wealth Management. “We’ve done it for many years in London and New York and now being able to do it here in Los Angeles as well is really exciting.
What happened in the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Lounge at Frieze LA 2019
At the heart of Deutsche Bank Wealth Management’s engagement of Frieze Los Angeles was its innovative new Lounge model, due in part to the unique round shape of the building given over to the cause. Whereas Frieze’s London and New York editions see the Lounge within a wing of the main fair tent, here, it was housed in the lobby of the Paramount Theatre, a short walk from the fair’s main entrance. Inside, California-based media artist Victoria Fu had created a specially-commissioned installation that took over the space’s ceiling. The effect – coupled with carefully selected highlights of her wider oeuvre – was immersive.
“We liked Victoria because of her great ability to respond to different spaces, her connection to the moving image and her interest in manipulating light – all things very germane to the Paramount Studios,” says Liz Christensen, Senior Curator at Deutsche Bank, who worked closely with Fu on the installation and commission of her work. “Using space and light to create perceptions of reality is the perfect Hollywood metaphor, but for me she references and continues the work of earlier California artists who notably experimented with light, such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin, and of abstract image-makers such as Diana Thater and Barbara Kasten.”
The installation of her work – which explores the relationship between the digital and analogue realms – within such a curved space (the building itself was round) brought with it its own challenges, but ones that ultimately worked in the Lounge’s favour. “Victoria created an outstanding installation that was smart and subtle and visually rich,” says Christensen. “She always considered how to best work with the architecture and the big picture of how people will experience the space, the light and her interventions all together… When we first visited the site together, we almost immediately agreed that the ceiling was a focal point. It had the circular moulding already existing and the storied empty space felt like a presence itself – the above and the below – like the heavens and the earth. In addition, the afternoon sun cast long shadows across the floor and Victoria was able to control that beautifully by adhering transparent vinyls of gradient colour, like a sunrise, or the curvature of the earth and sky. Different kinds of light became the motif.”
The result was a Lounge that was at once hospitality space as well as a tightly-curated exhibition, both welcoming and intellectually engaging. “Clients are ecstatic,” says Campelli. “They love this lounge – and they’re telling us that this is actually giving them a new perspective on Deutsche Bank. They didn’t realise we’re so committed to art and a partnership with an institution as great as Frieze.”
How Deutsche Bank helped turn the Paramount Pictures Studios backlot into a living art gallery
Paramount’s simulated New York Street was used imaginatively by the Frieze and Deutsche Bank teams to help visitors engage with different types of art. Alongside pop-up cafés and magazine stands were installations housed ‘inside’ the facades of the set itself. In ‘Café No. 5’, for example, Deutsche Bank Wealth Management presented a special historical photography exhibition on Italian motorsport, in homage to its new role as Global Lead Partner of Italy’s hallowed Mille Miglia classic car race.
Nearby, British artist Tom Pope installed his One Square Club: a private member’s club just one square metre in size, with entry via a red carpet, rope barriers and even its own security staff. Pope won the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprises (DBACE) in 2011 and the bank took this opportunity to present its first ever interactive work of art at Frieze by supporting his latest work.
Each visitor to the club was able to become a ‘member’ for around seven minutes and, once inside, was entertained by Pope himself at a fully equipped and opulent bar. “The very demographic Frieze attempts to seduce is one of exclusivity, belonging, celebrity, money, and also culture (with art folded into the culture),” explains Pope. “In that sense Frieze LA was the perfect launch for the Club as a conceptual art work that’s also an experiential participatory performance work.”
One Square Club proved so popular that people queued for an average of two hours to get in. Pope spent three and a half days inside, entertaining 450 new ‘members’ over a glass of Ruinart champagne, a chat and some games. “I didn’t know how [the] conversations would unfold,” says Pope, “yet everyone was engaged in discussing the challenges facing different industries and economies, and welcomed the innovative way the Club highlighted such predicaments.”
Anna Wallace-Thompson is an arts and culture writer based in London.