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October 9 - 12, 2003, presented by the Fine Art Dealers Association,
at Barker Hangar, Santa Monica Airport, Santa Monica

by Bill Lasarow

Edward Willis Redfield, “Bridge at
Charenton,” 1898, o/c, 25 x 32 1/4”,
presented by Guarisco Gallery,
Washington D.C., at the L.A. Art Show.

Gottfried Helwein, “Epiphany I”, 1996,
mixed media on canvas, 83 x 131”,
presented by Spanierman Gallery, New
York, at the L.A. Art Show.

Emerson Woelffer, "Untitled", presented
by Manny Silverman Gallery, Los
Angeles, at the L.A. Art Show.

The annual Fine Art Dealers Association (FADA) gathering enters its ninth year, its second at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar (October 10-12, with a Benefit Preview on October 9; admission is $18 for the three days). A significant remake that was instituted last year remains in place, namely shifting to the larger Hangar and adding a noticeable component of contemporary dealers to the overall mix of booths.

But the number and range of participants has not noticeably expanded, quantitatively or qualitatively, with the exception of the group of participating museums. Booths occupied by LACMA, MOCA, the Orange County Museum, San Diego Museum, Museum of Latin American Art, and the Autry Museum represent a substantial increase from last year, though the museums will be there to promote this season’s upcoming shows and recruit new members. The number of booths looks to be about the same as last year. Back then the group of local contemporary dealers that signed on made a bold statement, and the projected 10,000 attendance figure was met. This year, however, that trend has not noticably translated into an influx of similarly adventureous dealers. Most, through not all, of the local contemporary galleries that gave the L.A. Show a fling last year have returned. But we do not as yet see this stimulating significant new entries from outside of Southern California.

Whether this is something of a breather year, or a sign that the event is receding from its highwater mark, is too early to tell. FADA’s history has been to grow in increments and then consolidate in order to emphasize the polish of the show’s organization and the presenters’ commitment to placing quality inventory in their booths. Given that the foundation for the L.A. Show lies in traditional painting and sculpture, this has always made for a genteel atmosphere. And though the number of presenters has steadily grown from the original sixteen to over sixty, organizers have successfully kept the viewing experience from feeling unwieldy.

Major sponsors the Pacific Design Center and Architectural Digest magazine also chip in with a selection of interior design installations and a three-day art and design symposium.

These are characteristics of a fine and reliable regional event, but it would be a far stretch to categorize the L.A. Show alongside the roster of major international fairs such as Basel or Chicago. The overall quality of exhibitors’ booths, the managable scale, and the added enrichment of the special installations and related panels all insures that the what-you-see-is-what-you-get experience here is high.

For those dealers, collectors and curators looking for the kind of great networking opportunity that they can highlight on their calendar, expectations remain limited. But if you are a museum regular who also likes to get out to the galleries, and especially if you like to make at least the occasional purchase, the L.A. Show is perfectly suited for you.