Frieze Los Angeles 2024
By Avery Wilcox

We are now two weeks out from what some call Los Angeles’ biggest art week of the year – Frieze Week. Thank you for allowing us to catch our breath.

Chuck Magazine tried to look behind paintings and in the bottom of glasses for the truth about the ritual that is Frieze Week. Frieze is a four-day long contemporary art extravagance that matters in earnest (like so much of the art world) only to those who religiously play the game. The rest of us are along for the ride.

Frieze is what you expect but on steroids. Visual clash, overstimulating social interactions, horrible huge paintings, incredible small ones. Walking through the fair I wondered if the sense of precarity – the whole of the fair on stilts, the smiles about to crack – was apparent to everyone. Is that why, despite every blue chip on some gallerist’s shoulder, it felt like there was still an edge, something hard and sharp in just being there?

Frieze is not only a ritual but a playground. “Huh, funny. I thought Frieze was a temple, turns out it’s a fucking carnival,” Fin says under his breath as we pass nine foot tall acrylic and metal illustrations of clowns at Sprüth Magers. Terrifying. Three gorgeous versions of Ruscha’s Standard Station at Craig Starr Gallery. While still in awe of Ruscha’s work whenever I see it, seeing the work times three felt a bit like the funhouse mirrors were closing in on us.

My head was on a swivel. By the end of that first night, it felt like the curation (and attendee behavior) skewed towards vulgarity veiled in lace. Some people tend to lose their minds in the garish visual noise of the Los Angeles cityscape – that doesn’t mean you should curate to that effect. I think Los Angeles is the most romantic city in the world come evening each day.

The works at Frieze that brought me in were domestic scenes, Ana Mendieta photographs at Galerie Lelong & Co. The familiar act of performing for oneself in private, which was a poignant moment for me amid the chaos. And a small Robert Bechtle scene of a car in a driveway back at Craig Starr. There I was, indecisively railing against the curatorial thesis of “Car Show” for the booth, and enjoying it at the same time.

Felix Art Fair was a reprieve in that we recorded video intros that morning beside a shimmering Hockney-painted pool. Achilleas and Finley had been wearing the same clothes for three days, everyone’s head hurt and Dylan was laughing at the small spectacle we were making of ourselves.

The languid way we moved in and out of the cabana galleries made it hard to discern what exactly began and ended where. Maybe it was partially the glare from the pool and the house music being pumped through the palms lining the courtyard. Something – or some works – that cut through our antics and attention deficits were two Annabel Häfner paintings at Tara Downs Gallery. One in what is normally the hotel room’s wood television housing and one on the mirror in the bathroom. On the last day of Frieze week, I was tired of the gimmicks and the screeching and the sour looks. Her “non-place” paintings reverberated for me in the way I hope landscapes always will.

It felt like whiplash going up mirrored stairs to see the bizarro Mercedes racing installation. They put the fair sponsor content in the prettiest corner suite with the conversation pit at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Lest we forget that for so many, art is but an economic force. We drank free, warm Heinekens on the roof and tried to collect ourselves.

We began to head west one last time to sign off of Frieze week and film content for all of Chuck’s most devout consumers. We were hallucinating at this point, but happy. In the palpable exhaustion of the last day, it started to feel that Frieze itself – this incredibly demanding and exciting week for so many – was both its own non-place and non-starter. How many ignorantly blissful Angelenos went about their weekend unknowing of the millions of dollars worth of art out of place at a municipal airport? Though the mirage held up throughout the weekend, Sunday evening came, and with it all of the Carhartt adorned art handlers, to dismantle the art fair on stilts back down to Earth.

Thank you: Frieze Art Fairs, Felix Art Fair, Winter Hoffman, Sophia Siegel

Chuck Intern: Dylan Kaposi