After two years of Covid-related cancelations, postponements, and pivots, Los Angeles’s fair week is back, with Frieze, Felix, and Spring Break all taking place this weekend. After a pared-down, locals-only fair last summer, Felix cofounder Dean Valentine told ARTnews he felt comfortable forging ahead this month based on “the success of the summer edition, which gave us the confidence we could manage traffic flow,” as well as Frieze’s decision to return to L.A. after canceling last year’s edition.
Frieze and Felix required both masks as well as proof of vaccination for entry. At the former fair, most visitors followed the rules, though a noticeable amount wore them at their chins or had removed them altogether. Things were largely the same at Felix, which takes place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. There, visitors generally adhered to mask protocols, although some dispensed with them entirely, especially while visiting the ground-floor cabana booths, which open onto a pool area. (L.A. County dropped its outdoor mask mandate on Wednesday.)
Two elevators took Felix guests to exhibitors’ displays on the 10th and 11th floors. Shortly after the VIP opening on Thursday, the line for the elevators was already about a dozen deep and growing, as each elevator held six people, with little space between them.
With no timed entry or capacity limits on Felix’s rooms that served as booths (despite capacity limits being in place place at the Roosevelt Hotel for floors), guests were largely left to themselves to navigate the narrow hallways and suites upstairs. “Rooms have their own natural limits. If you walk in a doorway and see 20 people, it doesn’t feel right,” Valentine said. This was generally the case, though it was clear that some visitors felt more comfortable in crowded spaces than others.
Frieze, on the other hand, was anything but claustrophobic. In its new home, in a custom-built tent in an empty lot across from the Beverly Hilton, Frieze’s tent square-footage was about 40 percent larger than the past editions at Paramount Pictures, a few miles away. The first few hours of the fair saw a steady stream of people that made the event feel populated but not packed to the brim. (A timed-entry system helped.)
Still, there appeared to be one major Covid-related shift at Frieze: food stands have been eliminated altogether. Though the fair is smaller than others, a lack of eating options will probably leave hungry art lovers feeling cranky.