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L.A. Art Show: Record Crowds Belie Uneven Sale Patterns

The Los Angeles Art Show, now in its 13th year, was held from Jan. 23-27, once again at the Barker Hanger, Santa Monica Airport.

LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles Art Show, now in its 13th year, was held from Jan. 23-27, once again at the Barker Hanger, Santa Monica Airport. This year’s event drew a record 25,000 attendees, up from last year’s 20,000 visitors and far surpassing the 2006 total of 13,500. The show further reported record overall sales of more than $15 million, up from last year’s $10 million take.

Still, the overall sales figure did not necessarily translate to success across the board. Fair organizers and exhibitors characterized sales as uneven, and several dealers told ARTnewsletter that business was down from the previous year. Fair organizer Kim Martindale reports that only an estimated 60 percent of the dealers “did well.”

Too Many Cooks May Dilute the Broth

Perhaps one factor contributing to thinner sales at the show was the greater number of exhibitors competing for buyers: More than 125 dealers were showcased this year, compared with 80 in 2007 and 56 in 2006. Contributing in both sales and dealer totals, and new this year, the Los Angeles Fine Print Fair, featuring 27 dealers, was incorporated into the show. Overall, the show maintained its offering of a large mix of work, from Old Masters to mid-career contemporary artists.

Dealers reported seeing both established local clients as well as new clients. Mary Lou Rutberg, of Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles, told ARTnewsletter that the gallery had sold a 1974 Francisco Zuñiga bronze sculpture, Juchiteca sentada, to an East Coast collector who was new to the gallery. Also on hand were numerous celebrities, including actor Owen Wilson, who purchased a work by Maya Lin for $12,000 from William Shearburn Gallery, St. Louis, Mo.

On the downside were the galleries that reported less than stellar sales. Among them was Lisa Chadwick of Dolby Chadwick Gallery, San Francisco, who was new to the show this year and reported no sales over $5,000. Similarly, Julie Baker, of Julie Baker Fine Art , Nevada City, Calif., sold ten works, compared with last year’s sales of 20 works. Among her sales at this year’s show were two works by Matt Duffin (encaustic wax on board), and a felt figurative sculpture by Faye Schoolcraft.

Also, Peter Fairbanks, of Montgomery Gallery, San Francisco, reported selling only six paintings, for a total of $30,000. Nonetheless, all three galleries saw active potential for post-event sales. The general consensus was that buyers seemed hesitant to “pull the trigger.”

Satellite Fair Flourishes

In tandem with the Los Angeles Art Fair, for the fourth year in a row, the more contemporary Art LA fair, which ran from Jan. 25-27 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, drew an estimated 7,000 visitors—up from 6,500 in 2007, from 5,000 in ’06. Art LA featured more cutting-edge work than in years past, as well as an increased number of out-of-town galleries.

But sales reports were similarly uneven, although several galleries walked away very happy with their results. Bennett Roberts, of Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, reported that his booth had sold out, as did Kontainer, Los Angeles.

The total sales for the show are estimated at more than $3 million, event organizer Tim Fleming reports.


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