The second week in February is shaping up to be a busy one for the art world in Los Angeles. In addition to the ten-year-old Art Los Angeles Contemporary and the newly announced Frieze Los Angeles (a branch of the fair from London and New York), there will be another contemporary art fair on the calendar: the homegrown Felix LA.
Set for February 13-17 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard—a short drive from Paramount Studios, which will house Frieze LA—Felix LA is the brainchild of Los Angeles art collector Dean Valentine, a former television executive who now runs a media-investment firm.
Valentine, who was an early champion of artists as varied as Takashi Murakami and Adrian Ghenie, told ARTnews that he came up with the idea for the fair after traveling to New York during Armory Show week this past March. He visited the Armory, as well as the other fairs NADA and Independent, and enjoyed all of them—but, he said, “I had a strong feeling that a lot of what I enjoyed about the art world was missing.” That week, he had dinner with some gallerists who felt the same, and they all got to talking about the mid-1990s, when Valentine started collecting, and reminisced about the scrappy West Coast iteration of New York’s equally scrappy Gramercy Hotel fair, which took place in the mid-’90s at LA’s Chateau Marmont hotel.
“It had a much more fun and intimate vibe,” Valentine said, “and that felt like what was missing. So I started thinking—I wonder if we could recreate that sensibility?”
Valentine wanted to create a fair that would be affordable for dealers, particularly the smaller and mid-size ones that struggle today to make their overhead at major international fairs. He started conversations with the Roosevelt, a hotel taken over a few years ago by new owners who refurbished the place while keeping its original 1920s details. The fair will be able to accommodate 35 dealers, and while an exhibitor list was not yet available, Valentine said the lineup would be global with galleries from Los Angeles, New York, Mexico, China, Japan, and elsewhere.
Valentine would not reveal how much it will cost galleries to participate in Felix LA, but he said it would reasonable enough that, for participating dealers, there won’t be immense pressure to sell. “The worst that will happen,” he said, “is you’ve had a really wonderful few days around a pool in L.A., and the best is that you’ll sell some art as well. But even if you don’t sell, you will be OK at the end of the day. You will have met some of the largest collectors on the West Coast.”
(And, as with the Gramercy Hotel and Chateau Marmont fairs back in the day, dealers will have the option of saving money by staying in the very same hotel room they use to exhibit their wares.)
Valentine was quick to emphasize that he does not see Felix LA as being in competition with Frieze or ALAC, but rather as complementary. “The adjunct fair model seems to benefit everybody,” he said. “It gives people more things to do, more reasons to come to the city, a broader panoply of galleries and artists.”
As for the fair’s name, Valentine cited three inspirations: Felix the Cat, his favorite animated character when he was a kid; the 19th-century art critic Felix Feneon, an avowed anarchist known for his support of Seurat and Signac—who painted his portrait, now in MoMA’s collection—and his famous novels in three lines; and the Latin word for “happy.” Mainly, he said, he likes the name because “it doesn’t feel art fair-y, or corporate. It embodies the accessibility of what we want to do.”