Gracie Hadland around Frieze LA

Frieze Week in Los Angeles. All photos by author unless noted.

LAST SUNDAY NIGHT, the eve of Frieze Week in Los Angeles, people spilled out of the gallery Gattopardo into a strip mall parking lot for a reading celebrating a new collection of writings by Giovanni Intra, published by Semiotext(e). The late artist and writer was one of the founders of the gallery China Art Objects, which in the late ’90s was crucial in putting LA back on the art-world map. He died at the age of thirty-four of an overdose and a certain scene dissolved with him. Those in attendance, some who had slept with him, done drugs with him, or worked for him, hadn’t gathered in a while. During their readings, Veronica Gonzalez Peña and Jason Yates often interjected, correcting falsehoods or calling to the audience to remember dates and names. So the week began, with memories of LA bohemias past whose specter would linger throughout.

Giovanni came up again during a conversation Tuesday morning at Del Vaz Projects in Santa Monica, where Chris Kraus and Ralph Coon were discussing the work of Julie Becker. Kraus remembered how Becker had stood up at Giovanni’s funeral, as the speeches were eulogizing a sanitized version of his life, and said that he was a drug addict, and that he was in a lot of pain. Coon is credited in the press release as Becker’s “former lover and biographer,” a title I hope one of my lovers will someday possess. He distinguished himself as a non-art-world person, admitting proudly that he’d been rejected from CalArts multiple times. Coon was honest and vulnerable, telling stories both tender and tragic about the artist, who committed suicide in 2016 via drug overdose. On view in the gallery was Federal Building with Music, 2002, in which we see the hole Becker cut in the floor of her apartment in order to lower a replica of the bank building viewable from her window into the ground. Kraus said something beautiful about how Becker “walked the line of grace and magic between the legitimate and the marginal.” Walking this line has basically become an untenable way of life in Los Angeles, which is to say, life as a certain type of artist. Even galleries like this one—based out of a home and projecting an informal kind of DIY spirit, with chicken coops and vegetable gardens—have taken on a professional bent, partnering with the art fair, thus Deutsche Bank, and other institutions.

The girls from Greene Naftali didn’t know how many drawings they had of Becker’s in their inventory. “They have 141,” the writer Kat Herriman told me. “I asked for the PDF.”

Writers Gary Indiana and Chris Kraus after the Giovanni Intra reading.

Later that evening at the Gaylord Apartments, a group of us celebrated the birthday of Georgia Gardner Gray, who has a show of paintings up in the apartment gallery, where you can tell that they have to rearrange the furniture to install work. Joseph Geagan, one of the gaylords of the Gaylord prepared a delicious meal of lasagna and Caesar salad, which we paired delightfully with the bootleg espresso martinis his boyfriend and co-gallerist, John Tuite, made with some cold coffee. Smoking cigarettes around the table, we talked about the terrible party from the night before, the galleries that we don’t like, and the perks of joining the LA Athletic Club. Borna Sammak tried on one of the Gaylord hats but feared his head was too big. Calla Henkel and Max Petigoff, whose show “Paradise” is up at O-Town House, came in just in time for the tiramisu, bestowing the birthday girl with tourist treasures from Hollywood Boulevard.

I left early to go to collector Arty Nelson’s house in Bronson Canyon, where traffic was backed up down the hill. They weren’t letting anyone into the party because it was at capacity—a humiliating experience for everyone. DC punk legend Ian Svenonious came out, gave me a hug and told me to tell them my name was Ian Svenonious. After some VIP treatment, I was admitted. Ellie Rines of 56 Henry lounged in the chair near the koi pond but began picking up empty bottles and plastic cups promptly at 12:30 a.m. It was Valentine’s Day and so, in the spirit of the holiday and for the love of my craft, I made out with one of the galleries’ artists in the backseat of the dealer’s Tesla while he drove me home.

The night prior, I found myself at a party which I hoped would be the worst of the week. I met up with painters Dustin Hodges and Tristan Unrau. They were standing with their gallerist, Sebastian Gladstone, outside his house in Beachwood Canyon, dressed in their best suits ready for the art fair. It was one of those parties for a fake magazine with a vaguely Lacanian title at a rooftop venue that looked like a Palm Springs Airbnb. Jeffrey Deitch was a cohost; the crowd was low-level influencers mingling with art people. I ordered a martini, which I received in a plastic cup with a lime in it; it was $25.

“David, Johnathan, Lauren, whatever your name is, it doesn’t matter,” said the door girl as she put wristbands on me and artist Parker Ito on Wednesday night. I got the sense that this party, hosted by Byredo and Anne Imhof following her show at Sprüth Magers, was underattended. On the mezzanine of SoFi stadium people in leather pants shuffled around on the carpeted floor like zombies, looking for anyone they might know or for someone famous or for something to do. The artist Andrew Greene emerged from a sputter of machine-made fog. “Welcome to the end of the world,” he said. Imhof’s videos played on jumbotrons, and it was all too easy to get a drink. “It’s going to turn into a rave down on the field,” someone said. The 70,000-seat stadium was empty, as was the field except for some red lights and fog machines. Imhof herself leaned over the railing, taking photos of her own videos and wearing a bomber jacket with the name of her exhibition on the back: “Emo.” I hadn’t gone to the opening, but the woman who owns the glass company that made the bongs for the exhibition showed me photos on her iPhone. It did not turn into a rave.

Frieze LA at the Santa Monica airport. Photo: Casey Kelbaugh.

I wandered around Frieze, this year held at the Santa Monica Airport, looking for the “Ruinart Champagne Lounge.” Inside, there was an installation showing some of Stanya Kahn’s work from her last exhibition: wood frames made from the tree stumps in her backyard, a painting of a gorilla, and some ceramic snakes. Then there was something about her work aligning with the champagne brand’s “interest in biodiversity and the human footprint.” I overheard a woman complaining that Leonardo DiCaprio’s rumored purchase in Vail was jacking up the property value. An art advisor was showing pictures of work by a “very good artist” to his client, who nodded obediently. I sat next to a woman who was quite drunk and sat on a plate of frosting, then proceeded to put it in her purse. They passed out caviar in an avocado. I brought in Kate Spencer Stewart and Chadwick Rantanen, a former student of Kahn’s, to partake.

When he picked me up on Friday night, my plus-one told me he had almost rented my apartment the year before I was born, and that Giovanni Intra had lived around the corner. He also said that the first day he moved to Los Angeles he died for eight minutes.

At the Karma/Parker/Mendes Wood dinner, I met a self-proclaimed “bad collector” who said when he first saw Jordan Wolfson’s animatronics, he was so moved he “couldn’t speak.” He said he was a businessman. When we pressed him on what business, he said, with a kind of shrug and a chuckle, that he sold tissue boxes made from recycled material.

For a lot of these dinners, you always think you’re going to an elegant private residence for a sit-down meal, but then it’s just a house that no one lives in that’s actually a furniture showroom, and you have to elbow your way to get a plate of shrimp.

At Yamashiro, Chateau Shatto’s Liv Barrett, one of the party’s hosts, wore a black synthetic fur jacket, which she feared made her look like “Cocaine Bear.” After free sushi and martinis, I went to Thai Angel, a dive bar in Koreatown. Upstairs, friends David Flaugher, Alexandra Metcalf, Stuart Middleton, Daniel Wenger, Julia Yerger, and Harley Hollenstein had installed artistic interventions in closets full of refuse and in the dark hallway.

Saturday morning in Pasadena, a group of us walked off our hangovers along a trail in the Arroyo Seco, where the artist Phil Davis hosted an outdoor open studio, showing a series of paintings he had made and installed on wooden posts along the path. Afterward, we sat at picnic tables drinking coffee while local kids performed archery on cardboard targets. Painter Andy Giannakakis remarked that this was the “antithesis of the week’s festivalization” which made him feel optimistic about Los Angeles.

Art fairs, it hardly bears repeating, are the worst place to see art. My favorite thing wasn’t even something to be “looked at.” At Reena Spaulings, Peter Fischli had installed a speaker beneath a grate in the sidewalk; what emanated was the sonic simulation of a band practicing in the basement. The recording was of the band in which his late wife had played. We stood around outside looking at a hole in the ground, wondering if anyone or anything was really down there.

A work by Peter Fischli at Reena Spaulings.
Writer Eli Diner and dealer Liv Barrett at Yamashiro.
Fairgoer in front of a painting by Dustin Hodges.
Artist Alina Perkins and dealer Tyler Murphy at businessman James Goldstein’s house.
Calla Henkel, Max Petigoff, and dealer Fernando Mesta.
A painting by Phil Davis in the Arroyo.
Artists Phil Davis and Andy Giannakakis.
Artist Nevine Mahmoud and dealer Tabitha Steinberg.
Gabriele Garavaglia, Asha Schecter, Miriam Leonardi, and Laura Owens at Yamashiro.
Moving Parker Ito’s painting to make space at the party.
Dealer Naoki Sutter (center).
The author and artist Michelle Uckotter.
Artists Tristan Unrau and Patrick Jackson.
Art advisor Alex Goodman and gallerist John Tuite.
Artists Ramsey Alderson and Veronica Gelbaum.
Dinner at the Gaylord.
The koi pond at Arty Nelson’s house.
John Tuite.
Artists Joe Speier and Nick Angelo.
The oyster spread at Sprüth Magers dinner.
A lonesome party guest.
In the bathroom of the Sprüth Magers dinner.
At the Anne Imhof party at Sofi Stadium.
A work by Daniel Wenger at Thai Angel.
A work by Julia Yerger at Thai Angel.
LAPD showing up to the Sprüth Magers dinner due to noise complaints.

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