With the return of in-person art viewing, the battle between major fairs is more ferocious than ever. Art Basel dealt a deadly blow to FIAC Paris when it won the right to use the Grand Palais space, the best venue in the city. And a duopoly has emerged between Art Basel—firmly established in Basel, Miami, and Hong Kong—and Frieze, which operates in London, New York, and Los Angeles.
From February 17 to 20, the third edition of Frieze L.A. takes place in a new venue on Wilshire Boulevard, in Beverly Hills. Over the last decade, L.A.’s growing art scene has outpaced those of New York, Berlin, and Beijing; the largest concentration of contemporary artists in the world now lives and works there.
Cultural safaris consisting of visits to the many exciting studios, from those of Alex Israel to Ed Ruscha, are a must for any serious collector coming from out of town. The late Eli Broad, whose eponymous museum is packed with visitors around the clock, certainly deserves a lot of the credit for this.
The global commercial galleries, such as Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth, have stunning premises, and David Zwirner is rumored to be opening an L.A. outpost soon. Regen Projects, Jeffrey Deitch, and David Kordansky have been running first-rate exhibition programs year in year out. LACMA, MoCA, the Broad, the Getty, the Norton Simon, and the Huntington are some of the museum magnets attracting cultural tourists.
There is, of course, a very wide offering of five-star hotels for you to stay in. My two favorites are the Chateau Marmont and the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The Chateau, luckily, has not changed one iota since the days when Helmut Newton spent his winters there. The atmosphere, as in all establishments owned by André Balazs, is electric. In a very relaxed and casual environment you’ll see artists mixing with actors, writers, producers, models, and tech moguls. Having lunch in the garden or sitting around the pool sure beats watching any movie, even if one of my favorite films ever, Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, was shot here.
The Beverly Hills Hotel, famous for that legendary banana-leaf wallpaper, lets you re-live the city’s glory days of the 1950s and early 60s while it inspires hot contemporary artists such as Joel Mesler. Eating a hamburger in the little coffee shop under the staircase or sipping a drink listening to the pianist playing Justin Hurwitz tunes in the Polo Lounge are some of the most magical experiences life in La La Land can offer. The outside façade of the hotel was immortalized on the cover of the 1970s masterpiece album Hotel California, by the Eagles. The Dorchester Collection, owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel, has not tried to modernize or redecorate it (thank God).
Michael Chow and Wolfgang Puck, two of the world’s most famous restaurateurs, have been attracting a top clientele to L.A. for several decades now. Mr. Chow never fails to enchant with its sophisticated mix of top Chinese cuisine and elegant European decor. On most evenings you are likely to spot Chow himself, even though these days he spends more time in his studio creating art. Puck, who owns over 80 restaurants around the world, can also be seen welcoming guests most nights at his legendary Spago, its walls covered by the work of L.A. artists.
Benedikt Taschen, who single-handedly revolutionized the market for art books, lives in one of L.A.’s architectural landmarks, the Chemosphere House, built by John Lautner in 1960. It looks like a U.F.O. that has just landed from Mars and might take off again the minute you walk into it. Taschen is not only a very successful publisher and collector but also a restaurateur. He co-owns some of the town’s hippest eateries, including Jon & Vinny.
People always say that L.A. is not a place for pedestrians, but on my most recent stay I tried to prove this wrong. I did all my travel in Beverly Hills on foot, and it was a most pleasant experience. As opposed to Miami, you are never suffering from the heat as it is very dry. The gorgeous trees and spectacular houses make every walk varied and entertaining. And the relentlessly blue sky ensures that you will have a good time.
Frieze Los Angeles is on from February 17 to February 20
Simon de Pury is a Swiss art auctioneer and the author of The Auctioneer: Adventures in the Art Trade