In Los Angeles, Even an Art Fair Is Really About the Parties

In Los Angeles, Even an Art Fair Is Really About the Parties

“I think Frieze is fantastic,” James Corden said. “I went to the one in London before anyone in L.A. even knew what it was.”

It was Tuesday in Los Angeles, and Mr. Corden, the former late-night host who now lives in London, was standing inside the Holmby Hills home of Jimmy Iovine, the co-founder of Interscope Records and the former chief executive of Beats Electronics. About 225 people had gathered for an art auction hosted by Mr. Iovine and Dr. Dre and organized by Sotheby’s.

The event was part of a week of art talks, exhibitions and dinners culminating in Frieze Los Angeles, a four-day contemporary art fair held at the Santa Monica airport.

Frieze began in London in 2003 and has since expanded to New York City, Los Angeles and Seoul. (Last year, Frieze also bought two existing art fairs, Expo Chicago and the Armory Show in Manhattan.)

This was the fifth year of Frieze in Los Angeles, and as Mr. Corden noted, the event is picking up momentum on the West Coast. Simon Fox, the chief executive of Frieze, estimates the festivities have doubled in size from last year. “I think we counted over 150 different events happening in the city around the fair,” he said. “The city is exploding.”

This year’s Frieze Week, as it’s unofficially known, coincides with an exciting moment for the burgeoning Los Angeles art scene, which has been shored up in the past year with new galleries and freshly relocated artists.

Frieze Week is serving as a coming-out party, a centralized hub for all the artists and galleries to come together and celebrate.

The event that Mr. Corden attended took place in Mr. Iovine’s indoor roller rink, in a converted garage. On the wall were mural-style portraits of his friends, including Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg and Bono.

“We have roller-skating parties here,” Mr. Iovine said of the space. Usher, who showed off his skills in last month’s Super Bowl halftime show, is a regular: “He has skated here a hundred times.” Every table was well supplied with Dr. Dre’s gin-and-juice canned cocktails.

The goal was to raise money for the hosts’ nonprofit organization, the Iovine and Young Center, which reimagines public high school curriculums to teach students art and design, business, technology, and engineering and computer science skills. Sotheby’s organized a sale of 11 contemporary works by artists including Reggie Burrows Hodges, Ann Craven and Ed Ruscha that the auction house said raised $2.5 million.

Benny Blanco had his eye on a 15-inch-by-11-inch Noah Davis. “I know it’s small, but that’s me,” said Mr. Blanco, a record producer. “I’m 5-5 on a good day.”

Katie Couric said that while she was there for the art — “I am one of those people who actually enjoys looking at it” — she was also there for a good time. “Frieze is a really fun excuse to see a lot of great people and party,” she said, laughing. “I am trying to get invited to as many things as possible. Please give them my email.”

Dr. Dre left empty-handed. “I put my thing up once and I got outbid, but you know, it’s all good,” he said. “I’m just having fun.”

The evening ended with a live performance by the prolific record producer Timbaland that got Dr. Dre and Mr. Corden, who was fresh off a plane and incredibly jet-lagged, off their feet singing and dancing.

The party was Sotheby’s first big event ahead of a Frieze Los Angeles, and it is not the only brand getting involved. Maestro Dobel Tequila set up a Oaxaca-inspired lounge at the art fair with a custom bar made by the designer Marissa Naval and tapestries made by the artist Javier Reyes.

“We’ve often experienced guests who come to discover the art but stay for the tequila,” said Alejandra Martínez, creative director of the brand’s art platform that champions Latino artists and creators. Indeed, on the opening day of the fair, there was a flowing stream of margaritas and Oaxacan Old-Fashioned cocktails being served.

Ruinart, a sponsor of Frieze, hosted a four-course pairing dinner at the oceanfront hotel Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica where guests, wearing ribbons made by the artist Andrea Bowers, guzzled several types of champagne. BMW is sponsoring Frieze Music, a party with live music taking place at the Hammer Museum on Friday. (“It’s the first time we’ve done it here,” Mr. Fox said of the museum, which is affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles. “It brings in the younger crowd.”)

The opening of Frieze Los Angeles on Thursday attracted celebrities including Jessica Biel, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr., Tobey Maguire, Rob Lowe, Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson. But Frieze Week unofficially kicked off on Monday night at the Getty Villa, an art museum on the Malibu coast in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The affair opened with a champagne reception held in the museum’s famous courtyard, flanked by fluted pillars and filled with Roman antiquities. Guests, who included artists like Lauren Halsey, moneyed collectors like Ric Whitney and tastemakers like Rocky Barnes and Balthazar Getty, snacked on sliders and cheese plates before watching a dramatic ballet performance choreographed by Benjamin Millepied.

Some guests ventured into the galleries, taking in masterpieces like a statue of Hercules created around 125 A.D. During breaks in the rain, they strolled through manicured, illuminated gardens.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for L.A. to show off,” said Casey Fremont, executive director of the Art Production Fund, a nonprofit that produces public art projects. “The art world in L.A. is trending up. There are artists moving here, there are galleries coming to L.A.”

Mr. Getty, an actor, musician and patron of the arts whose family owns the museum, was there with his wife, the fashion designer Rosetta Millington, and some of his five children. “Parties here are always fun because they are a family affair, but I love that L.A. is becoming more and more of a place where art is being taken seriously.”

“People used to make fun of L.A., that it’s just spray tans and movie talk,” he added. “But look at all this culture and food and art and music and fashion. L.A. is not the little baby brother of New York anymore. It’s standing on its own two feet.”

Michael Govan, chief executive and director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, said he was eager to see what the newcomers would do during Frieze Week. “I’m most excited about everything,” he said, laughing. “I am counting on discovering something new. I will be surprised.”

One of the reasons L.A. Frieze Week has attracted such an international following is the weather, said Adam Cohen, who worked as an apprentice under Larry Gagosian and now runs his own gallery, A Hug From the Art World, in Manhattan. “I think people like to come to Los Angeles in February.”

While Los Angeles has experienced above-average rainfall this winter, the weather finally turned warm and sunny on Wednesday, and locals and visitors alike were ready to party hop.

Some traveled to Melrose Hill, where the David Zwirner gallery was hosting a party at a hipster Italian restaurant down the street from its new location in two former prop warehouses from the 1930s. Artists and collectors popped in throughout the night to drink natural wine and feast on platters of steak, arancini and focaccia.

Lana Del Rey, Jwan Yosef, David Dobrik, Zachary Quinto and Tyler Mitchell, the photographer best known for his Vogue cover of Beyoncé, headed high up in West Hollywood, where Serpentine Americas Foundation threw a rager at the estate of Matthew Orr and Sybil Robson Orr, an American film producer who is part of Walmart’s Walton family. Hundreds of guests danced around the pool with expansive views of the city to tunes spun by a D.J. Others mingled in the pool house where one of the many bars was set up.

Around midnight, the crowd dispersed to get some rest before the art fair began the next day.

One guest was overheard exclaiming on the way out: “I went to four parties tonight. That never happens in L.A.”

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