Sixteen seconds, Swamis Beach

Monday, January 20, 2014

L.A. Confidential

I am back, after a long week in Los Angeles. This will be a very short respite as I do it all over this week in Santa Barbara. The life of the vagabond art peddler. The Los Angeles Art Show was definitely the most professional and spectacular production I have ever been associated with, in fact I was a minnow in a sea of leviathans.

As I mentioned last week, I split a booth with my pal Steve from Stevens Fine Art in Phoenix. We have done shows together for many years and although our politics are a bit different, our artwork is very compatible, not to mention our taste in food.

There was a fantastic collection of paintings on the floor of the sprawling Los Angeles Convention center. There were Renoirs and Van Goghs, Grant Woods, Freisekes, just a murderer's row of top tier domestic and international canvases. That being said, we had one of the very best locations in the show and were bombarded with very favorable attention and praise for our respective offerings.

Show turned out almost respectable. Collectively we did fairly well, made rent and cost of goods and maybe a little extra. Certainly gave out zillions of business cards and we might get a little action in the weeks to come.

Opening night was packed. Lots of beautiful women, never have seen anything like it in all my years. People taking millions pictures. I stopped the first guy and then saw that it was like stopping a school of shad, I was battling the new paradigm. Why buy it when you can go home and make your own print?

All week long pictures, pictures, pictures. Next week hundreds of chinese artists will be dutifully reproducing every painting in my booth, just watch.

There is a generational change in art buying. The younger people simply aren't buying. Lack of interest or money. But why should they when they can take a picture and have a perfect reproduction of their favorite work? In fact around the corner from us, they were selling authorized Van Gogh reproductions at $30k a pop, and the guy was complaining about people taking pictures of their giclees! Funny...

I was in a wing called traditional or historic, I forget which. This market demographic appears to be shrinking a bit and the clientele definitely aging. Tastes are definitely in flux. Millennials choice of chroma is different, brighter, more graphic. They seem to respond viscerally rather than being guided by a previous generations choices. Visceral is always a good thing.

We brought a lot of more modern work to try to transition, including some Zap era psychedelic like my Rick Griffin canvas and the kids were beelining for it. Sold an S. Clay Wilson collage sketch that I had owned for ever and never exhibited or offered.

Frankly I didn't see a ton of stuff moving at the show, maybe a lot of people are broke. Even so, it was excellent advertising and I feel good about doing it. Had a lot of great clients and friends stop by to visit and met some new friends and clients. The beat goes on.

I did see some art I really liked. Arcadia from Soho had this great canvas by somebody that might be named Casey Baum titled Transfixed. 21st century narcissus blinded by the light of the monitors. And there was the conceptual stuff that sort of befuddled me like these rocks on the floor by a spanish artist in Jack Rutberg's booth.

Altamira Gallery was showing great works by both Ed Mell and Bill Schenck. Bill was at the show as was Tony Abeyta at Blue Rain's booth. Met lots of artists all week. Kept having to explain that I only handled the dead guys.

We were invited by a curator to the opening of the Alfredo Ramos Martinez show at the Pasadena Museum of California Art and caught it one evening. A bit narrow, I wish that they had included a broader reach of his works but still quite lovely. It included a couple of pieces that I had once sold and I saw some friends and clients there. Afterwards we hit Zankou for chicken, pickled turnips, hummus and garlic paste. Yum!

Steve and I split a room at the old Hotel Figueroa, the Spanish revival warhorse located a few blocks from the show. Funky and nice.

After the first night of setup we were walking back near the Staples Center and bought a couple Lakers, Cavs tickets from a friendly scalper. Guy said that they were high, didn't mention that they were top row. The seats were so high even the sherpas got nose bleeds. Lakers got stomped. Fun anyway but I was dead tired.

You know how it is with me, it always comes back to the food. It was fun week from the culinary standpoint. We went funky L.A. iconic with a little extra thrown in. Cheap historic eats. First night we were invited to a free opening night soiree at Chaya Downtown and gorged ourselves on really great hors d'oeuvres, often double fisted.

The next morning we ate at the Pantry the Los Angeles favorite that doesn't have a lock in its door and hasn't closed its doors since christ was a corporal. Kind of marginal fare but we had to chalk it off the list.

For lunch we went to Phillipe's and had lamb french dips which were great. Sawdust on the floor, waitresses who have worked the joint since the Taft administration, it is a must eat.

We got out so late opening night that nothing was open but the Yardhouse. Food was edible and the spicy tuna roll actually huge and quite tasty.

Food at the Figueroa was palatable. Breakfast was doled out by the increment. Fifty cent a pancake, fifty cent per bacon strip. You get really cautious when you get rung up like this but we kept it to about five backs each morning. Free water.

Next day after the show we bopped over to the famous Yang Chow's with Genser, a favorite Chinese restaurant where you are guaranteed never to see a Chinese patron's face. As americanized as it gets, they are best known for their famous slippery shrimp and egg foo young. No apologies, it is what it is and we were on a mission.

We also found time to head over to my father's favorite deli in the world, Langers, now located in the middle of a third world country near Echo Park where the crime is so bad that if you want you can park your car at the curb and a police escort will throw the food through your window. This was a highlight for me, pastrami and eggs pancake style and the famous rye. Best in the world. Steve had lox, eggs and onions. Still great, a yiddisher holdout in a sea of red and green.

This lady was making fresh papusas from her shopping cart on the corner of Alvarado. I'm thinking Salvadoran. She gave me a nice smile when I snapped her pic! Wasn't quite daring enough to try one.

Steve and I even made it to La Cabanita one night for very strong margaritas, chuletas and soup. He had the pozole, I tried the incredible chicken caldo which is as good as advertised. Simply the best mexican restaurant there is. Chuletas are thin cut pork chops in a brown pasilla sauce with sour cream. So good it is hard to order anything else. Green sauce at La Cabanita that is out of this world.

Was an interesting week. Big shows like this are a bear to get in and out of, set up and move in were difficult but I managed to make it home late last night after being helped by a very nice staffer named Bill Smith.

Catch a breath and do it again. Not sure if I will try the L.A. Art Show again but want to thank the promoters for allowing me in and giving me an opportunity to show my wares. Pretty good time all in all.


Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Langers. Sigh. Sounds like a great time.

Anonymous said...

Robert loved reading your post on the LA Art Show. Great seeing you. Ended up purchasing a small Wayne Thiebaud print, deli series 1965 that I have had my eye on for years at Leslie Sack Gallery.


Anonymous said...

Paul's Chinese in LA. Best wor won ton soup ever...

Splash! said...

Took your suggestion after the LA Art show and visited Phillipe's for the first time. French dip lamb with blu cheese, cole slaw, beet red pickled egg, washed down with an Arnold Palmer suggested by our server. Great meal! One more item checked off my bucket list. Robert you looked the heathiest I have ever seen you.

Anonymous said...

Among the not buying art younger set I wonder if it is thus: The ones with money are those with technical educations who work for Google. These folk are possibly art education deficient and not rich enough yet to have wealth managers suggest art as an investment. The rest of the educated sector of the generation work at flipping burgers and trying to pay off huge loans for liberal arts degrees. The less educated part of the younger generation may not care. The money that the earlier generations (like us) could access in better times has now been siphoned off by the 1% who have wealth managers who tell them to buy conservative safe paintings in New York auctions.

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,
An elegant post as always. I could smell the exotic food and the pain of load out, was sorry I missed coming as a tourist and am happy that I didn't kill myself doing the show, though it might have been worth it if I got to follow you around to your favorite haunts. I always enjoy your blogs I think they are wonderful and your image of the tree with snow was nothing less then superb, I hope to catch an image so compelling some day.
Hope you are doing well and come visit us soon.