hauser and wirth

The L.A. Art Scene Is Expanding in Time for the Frieze Art Fair Amidst a Billionaire Scion’s Bold Investment in an Up-And-Coming Area


While reporting my doom-and-gloom column last week, I spotted a glimmer of hope: Los Angeles.

So I decided to follow up on it.

Indeed, the art scene in the City of Angels has been undergoing a major expansion, and anticipation is now building around the Frieze L.A. art fair in mid-February—an event that is poised not only to be a celebration of the West Coast art capital but also the year’s first stress test for U.S. galleries writ large. The fair is going through its own leveling-up, with a larger new venue in Santa Monica and 120 exhibitors, 20 percent more than at last year’s edition. Coinciding with Frieze are at least four other art fairs, as well as openings and other festivities by newcomers, including a cluster of New York galleries, led by David Zwirner, which is flocking to East Hollywood. (Although that opening is being delayed, more on that later.)

The locals, meanwhile are doubling down. L.A. mainstay Hauser & Wirth, for instance, is opening a new 5,000-square-foot location in West Hollywood with new paintings by George Condo priced at $2.6 million to $2.8 million. Nearby, homegrown François Ghebaly Gallery will launch a 3,000-square-foot branch, its second in the city. Entrepreneur Stefan Simcowitz’s recent opening of a gallery in Pasadena is followed this week by a new space on the ground floor of the Mohilef Studios downtown.

George Condo, Psycho (2022). Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: Thomas Barrat

“There’s a lot of momentum,” said Mills Moran, co-founder of the local Morán Morán gallery and the Felix Art Fair. “L.A. is growing.”

Some of the excitement can be traced to a new art hub sprouting in East Hollywood. Dubbed Melrose Hill, the area was first populated by vendors servicing Paramount Studios and later furniture showrooms, whose column-free, high-ceiling layouts seem readymade for contemporary art galleries. These days, streets appear desolate, with empty lots and trash on the sidewalks.

Turning the area into a walkable, artsy, and cool destination is the passion project of Zach Lasry, the 32-year-old son of Marc Lasry, the billionaire hedge fund manager and co-owner of NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks team.

“He was just very motivated to make the neighborhood something organically interesting,” said Allegra LaViola, owner of Sargent’s Daughters gallery, which signed a five-year lease with the younger Lasry. “He liked the idea of a neighborhood that had a little bit of a New York vibe. You get out of your car, you can go to this restaurant, go to this coffee shop, go to this gallery, to a cool boutique—instead of getting in a car, driving to one thing, getting out of the car, getting back in the car, going to another thing.”

Morán Morán was first to sign on, opening a gallery near a gas station on N. Western Avenue in August 2021, with a 10-year lease. The 5,000-square-foot space with skylights was an upgrade from its former 3,000-square-foot quarters in West Hollywood.

“We were really early,” Moran said. “We saw Zach’s vision. It wasn’t hard to visualize. They’ve been acquiring property there for a long time. Our conversations started before the pandemic.”

Others followed. Clearing opened a temporary space in September. Sargent’s Daughters and Shrine, who share a space east of Dimes Square in New York, are moving in next month to coincide with Frieze L.A. James Fuentes will follow in March, across from Morán Morán.

James Fuentes, Los Angeles.

New York gallerist James Fuentes’s new Los Angeles outpost. Courtesy of the Gallery.

The biggest kahuna in the area, of course, is David Zwirner, whose limited liability company paid $6 million in 2021 for a building at 606 N. Western Avenue and another $1 million for a two-bedroom house with bars on the windows around the corner last year, according to property records.

The gallery had planned to launch its first West Coast flagship in time for Frieze L.A. with a long-awaited show of Njideka Akunyili Crosby. But the chatter mill is abuzz that the 15,000-square-food project by Selldorf Architects got mired in construction delays, and won’t open till later this spring. A spokeswoman for the gallery confirmed that it’s not debuting during the week of Frieze but declined to elaborate.

Moran said that his new neighbors are discussing coordinated openings to draw people to the up-and-coming area. Safety may be a concern, at least initially.

“There’s so much homelessness, it’s actually dangerous,” said Simchowitz, the art establishment’s perennial gadfly. A homeless man threw an iron bar at his car when he was in the area this week, he said.  

I raised the issue of safety with some New York transplants.

“It reminds me of Delancey Street, where the gallery is in New York,” said Fuentes, who signed a 10-year lease in Melrose Hill. “I never felt like I needed to be extra-concerned.”

 

Jemima Kirke, Bride in a Dark Room (2017) will be in Sargent’s Daughter’s first L.A. show, “Death of Beauty.” Courtesy: Sargent’s Daughters

LaViola said that she always takes safety into consideration, leading her to install a buzzer at her New York gallery, but that she wasn’t too worried about Melrose Hill.

Lasry’s plan to create denser foot traffic is part of what drew her to the area, she said. Affordable rent, a feature of a fringe locale, was another. “I would pay the same price for 500 square feet on the Upper East Side, where I would be on the third floor, as for the ground floor in Los Angeles, where we could renovate to our own specifications,” she said.

 

“Knowing that there was this built-in association was really key,” LaViola said.

Alison Knowles, The House of Dust Edition (1967). Courtesy of the artist, James Fuentes, and LACMA.

Alison Knowles, The House of Dust Edition (1967) will be part of “Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982” at LACMA. Courtesy of the artist, James Fuentes, and LACMA.

Los Angeles has been increasing in significance for Fuentes, who has been cautious not to overextend during his 15-year gallery career. But a generation of budding collectors has made L.A. their home since the pandemic, taking advantage of remote work policies, resulting in a new pool of clients. The area is famously home to many artists, useful for the expanding gallery, and proximate to Asia. Fuentes’s artists show in the city’s world-class institutions. One, Alison Knowles, will be included in a group show about the rise of computer technology at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next month.

“I am so careful with these types of decisions, and I spent a lot of time analyzing it and considering it,” Fuentes said about his move. “I am going into it with optimism.”

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Running a Famous Artist’s Estate Is a Maze of Infighting and Deal-Making. Here’s How the Rothkos and Other Families Did it


When artist Robert Indiana was on his deathbed, lawyers for the Morgan Art Foundation, which holds the copyright to some of Indiana’s most famous works, were busy filing a lawsuit against the foundation Indiana had named as the sole beneficiary of his estate. Three years and millions of dollars in legal fees later, the dispute between the two parties was finally settled this June, but not before the confusion over who had authority over the work had a chance to upset Indiana’s market, as well as cast shadows on his artistic legacy.

The debacle wasn’t the first, nor the last time, the transfer of an artist’s estate has been embroiled in controversy. Artists rarely leave a crystal clear path for the direction of their legacy after their deaths, such as a framework for authenticating their work or clear instructions on who should have authority over their market.

And when money is involved, there is little way of knowing who really has the artist’s best interests at heart. As a result, the responsibility for interpreting these complex questions often falls to whomever inherits the estate, regardless of how well-equipped they are to deal with it.

“I never expected to do this work, and it wasn’t required that I do it either,” said Christopher Rothko. When his father, Mark Rothko, died in 1970, shortly followed by his wife Mary, V was just six years old. The value of Rothko’s work skyrocketed nearly overnight—prices more than doubled after 1971—and his heirs were left with questions over who to trust to manage their father’s artistic legacy when interested market parties were involved. After all, the business of contemporary art is sizeable, but the business of artists’ estates—when a finite supply of artwork meets the demand of the market—can be even bigger.

Christopher Rothko with Mark Rothko, No.64 (1960). Christopher Rothko in 2019. Photo by Ouriel Morgensztern.

Christopher Rothko with Mark Rothko, No.64 (1960). Christopher Rothko in 2019. Photo by Ouriel Morgensztern.

“I was young and didn’t have much knowledge of how galleries operated,” said Kate Prizel, Christopher’s older sister, who was 19 at the time of her father’s death. “That came with the lawsuit.” A year after her father’s death, Prizel sued the artist’s longtime gallery, Marlborough, to secure the return of a large body of work, despite an agreement that had granted the gallery exclusive rights to sell them.

The children accused the estate’s executors and the gallery of conspiring to defraud them out of their share of the estate by undervaluing work while Rothko was alive and stockpiling paintings. A court eventually concluded in 1975 that there was a conflict of interest, and ordered Marlborough to pay more than $9 million in damages and costs, and return the 658 Rothko paintings still in its possession.

The experience was a valuable lesson for the Rothko children, who have both embraced the challenges of being closely involved in the management of their father’s estate. “We really wanted to limit the role of the gallery after Marlborough,” said Prizel. “We needed to develop a level of trust and didn’t want to work exclusively with anyone anyway,” she added.

Pace Gallery has been the primary venue for selling Rothko’s work since 1978, and will show a retrospective this fall. Despite the arrangement, Rothko’s children have always kept a tight grip on their father’s market. “While we do not control the secondary market, we set the price for our own works,” said Prizel.

“Sometimes we would bring an unusual work for sale, or something that had not been sold before, and we would create a market for it,” Christopher Rothko added. “For the rest, we keep track of prices and auction results from afar. I never set foot in an auction house.”

Abstract Expressionist artist Mark Rothko (1903-1970), during his MoMA exhibition, New York City, March 1961. Photo by Ben Martin/Getty Images.

Abstract Expressionist artist Mark Rothko (1903-1970), during his MoMA exhibition, New York City, March 1961. Photo by Ben Martin/Getty Images.

The Importance of Trust

Other heirs have not found it so easy to control the direction of their parent’s legacy. Sometimes, this has been because the artist implemented more rigid structures before their death. Henry Moore, for example, established a charitable foundation to which he conferred ownership of all of the works he produced in exchange for an annual salary. After Moore’s death, his daughter Mary took the Henry Moore Foundation to court over ownership rights to some of the work when she disagreed with the foundation’s plans to expand the artist’s family home, which she felt was not in line with what her father would have wanted. She lost.

Elsewhere, family in-fighting has done more harm to the legacy than good. In Germany, the descendants of Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer fought each other so often in court it prevented pretty much all publications, exhibitions, and comprehensive academic research. “It ultimately reduced access to the work,” said Loretta Würtenberger, co-founder of the Institute for Artists’ Estates and author of The Artist’s Estate: A Handbook for Artists, Executors, and Heirs. According to Würtenberger, a successful estate must involve new generations of collectors, academics, and curators who will have fresh views of the work. “That can only work with a certain freedom, like opening the archives and letting people publish their own findings,” she added. 

Students dance to the opening of the Bauhaus Museum Dessau with stage masks, which go back to Oskar Schlemmer and the Bauhaus. Photo by Hendrik Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images.

Students dance to the opening of the Bauhaus Museum Dessau with stage masks, which go back to Oskar Schlemmer and the Bauhaus. Photo by Hendrik Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images.

As one end of the gallery market has swelled to mega proportions, many galleries have developed machines that are well-equipped to deal with the sophisticated questions faced by those entrusted with an artist’s estate. These big businesses know exactly how to encourage new scholarship, secure museum placements, and manage the flow of works to the primary market that will ultimately benefit an artist’s historical legacy. Meanwhile, securing the trust of the heirs to gain representation of an artist’s estate and its inventory can pay off big time.

That’s exactly what Galerie Perrotin has been banking on. After abstract artist couple Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman died childless, a foundation was set up to manage their estate. Through his work and research, French scholar and curator Matthieu Poirier got acquainted with the Foundation Hartung Bergman, and in 2012, when it was looking for a new gallery, Poirier introduced them to Emmanuel Perrotin, for whom he had previously curated a show of Jesus Rafael Soto’s work. 

“Emmanuel immediately offered to put on a museum-like show in his space. He also asked MoMA for loans, simply because I told him it was needed,” Poirier said. “Very few places have the will and manpower to care for estates the way he does.” The gallery was eventually rewarded by signing contracts to represent both estates. Between 2012 and 2016, three Hartung paintings sold at auction for at least $300,000. Between 2017, the date of the Hartung exhibition at Perrotin, and 2021, the record grew five fold, according to Midnight Publishing Group’s Price Database. 

Hauser and Wirth is another European mega-gallery that has been rapidly expanding its roster of artist estates, which today weigh in at 37. Last November, it announced that it would start working with the estate of François Morellet.

The French artist had signed over sole ownership of his estate to his wife Danielle before he died in 2016, which his son, Frédéric Morellet, said was to ensure there were no arguments over the inheritance rights. “My mother was the sole owner of the estate,” Morellet said, adding that for this to work, he and his two brothers had to give up their own inheritance rights. Danielle and Frédéric have been managing the legacy since then.

The Morellets were introduced to Hauser and Wirth by a mutual friend at a time when the family wanted to simplify the organization of the estate, paving the way for the next generation to eventually take over. Frédéric Morellet said the opportunity was too good to pass up: “We were convinced that amongst the mega-galleries, they were one of the most respectable and prestigious ones, and that they would be able to secure Morellet’s legacy in art history.”

Carlos Cruz-Diez Jr. Director of the Atelier Cruz-Diez, Paris @ Atelier Cruz-Diez Paris / Photo: ECL © Carlos Cruz-Diez / Bridgeman Images 2021.

Carlos Cruz-Diez Jr. Director of the Atelier Cruz-Diez, Paris @ Atelier Cruz-Diez Paris / Photo: ECL © Carlos Cruz-Diez / Bridgeman Images 2021.

Legacy Planning

While facing-up one’s own death can be daunting, the historical record has shown that investing time in estate planning will ultimately support the market and in turn an artist’s place in art history. And contemporary artists working today seem to be taking their own legacies more seriously than ever. The British Abstract painter Frank Bowling has had one eye on his legacy for several decades. Among his preparations for the future were a late-career switch in galleries to Hauser and Wirth, and sending his sons to take a crash course in estate management.

Before he died, the Venezuelan Op artist Carlos Cruz-Diez was also keen to secure his artistic future. “My father was very articulate about his wishes for his legacy,” said Carlos Cruz-Diez Jr., who is one of several artist’s children taking part in a talks series on the topic at Newlands House Gallery in Sussex, U.K. He added that the discussion started after his mother died, when his father was 81 years old. They established the Cruz-Diez Foundation in 2005 to preserve a collection of works selected by the artist, with the clear mission of preserving and promoting his life and work. “My father was involved in the foundation’s projects just as much as he was in his studio,” Cruz-Diez Jr. noted.

By the time the artist died in 2019, the family had been working together for several decades. The estate and the foundation are still run by family members working together with a select few galleries to promote the estate around the globe.

“Managing the commercial aspect of my father’s work is a collaborative effort. As owners of the works, the family has the last word on the number of works available and establishing prices,” Cruz-Diez Jr. said. “Our commercial partners enrich our process with their knowledge of the market and help us maintain the delicate balance between supply and demand.”

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Painter Amy Sherald’s New Show in Los Angeles Encourages Patient Looking and Quiet Contemplation—See Images Here


In these turbulent times, creativity and empathy are more necessary than ever to bridge divides and find solutions. Midnight Publishing Group News’s Art and Empathy Project is an ongoing investigation into how the art world can help enhance emotional intelligence, drawing insights and inspiration from creatives, thought leaders, and great works of art.

 

 

What the gallery says: “Amy Sherald is acclaimed for paintings of Black Americans at leisure that achieve the authority of landmarks in the grand tradition of social portraiture—a tradition that for too long excluded the Black men, women, and families whose lives have been inextricable from the narrative of the American experience.

Subverting the genre of portraiture and challenging accepted notions of American identity, Sherald attempts to restore a broader, fuller picture of humanity. She positions her subjects as ‘symbolic tools that shift perceptions of who we are as Americans, while transforming the walls of museum galleries and the canon of art history—American art history, to be more specific.’”

Why it’s worth a look: Sherald, who spent the past year making the five pictures in this show, is famously a slow-moving, intensely focused artist. Her reduced production allows her to carefully articulate the sorts of details that characterize her precise paintings: the soft smear of pink on the dog’s nose in A Midsummer Afternoon Dream (2020), the broken fencing along the dunes in An Ocean Away (2020). Her careful painterly fluency encourages appropriately patient, measured looking that is rare in the 21st century.

How it can be used as an empathy workout: The show draws its title from educator Anna Julia Cooper’s 1892 book The Great American Fact, in which she argues that Black Americans are “the one objective reality on which scholars sharpened their wits, and at which orators and statesmen fired their eloquence.” In Sherald’s works, the objective reality of “public Blackness,” as the show’s press release puts it, comes through in portraits of everyday people, living quiet yet proud lives. Perhaps more than anything, these figures invite an empathetic viewer, someone willing to approach the painting with kindness and humility.

“Her paintings,” as the gallery says, “celebrate the Black body at leisure, thereby revealing her subjects’ whole humanity. Sherald’s work thus foregrounds the idea that Black life and identity are not solely tethered to grappling publicly with social issues, and that resistance lies equally in a full interior life and an expansive vision of selfhood in the world.”

What it looks like:

Amy Sherald, <i>A Midsummer Afternoon Dream</i> (detail, 2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, A Midsummer Afternoon Dream (detail, 2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, <i>A Midsummer Afternoon Dream</i> (detail, 2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, A Midsummer Afternoon Dream (detail, 2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, <i>A bucket full of treasures (Papa gave me sunshine to put in my pockets...)</i> (2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, A bucket full of treasures (Papa gave me sunshine to put in my pockets…) (2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, <i>An Ocean Away</i> (2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, An Ocean Away (2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, <i>Hope is the thing with feathers (The little bird)</i> (detail, 2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, Hope is the thing with feathers (The little bird) (detail, 2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, <i>As American as Apple Pie</i> (2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

Amy Sherald, As American as Apple Pie (2020). © Amy Sherald. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde.

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