• Frieze Los Angeles, an offshoot of the London art fair, held its third edition this past weekend
  • Luxury brands have stepped up their involvement with the art world, from artist collaborations to marketing around international festivals
  • Luxury companies use Frieze and other fairs to signal their brand values and drive sales from attendees

LOS ANGELES — Wednesday evening at the Little House, a white-walled gallery abutting Dries Van Noten’s Los Angeles boutique, a smattering of masked visitors browsed paintings of filigree-fine blooms blossoming into dazzling gardens populated with scorpions, sirens, and self-portraits of the London-based artist Raqib Shaw.

“This is thrilling,” said the gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, who co-hosted the show with Dries Van Noten. He gestured to a cohort under a full moon outside the gallery, awaiting their cars to a dinner at his Los Feliz home. “We haven’t seen this in two years.”

Although Wednesday marked the eve of Frieze Los Angeles’s first official day — after a two-year hiatus, thanks to Covid-19 — ”Frieze Week” in the city was well underway with events and parties. “In terms of Frieze, I’m more interested in the social connections,” said Deitch, adding that the intersection between music, film, fashion, and art is particularly powerful in LA. “Generally, the great art is in the galleries and museums. The art fairs are informational, but it’s a social platform.”

In 2019, Los Angeles became Frieze’s third city following New York and London (Frieze Seoul will have its inaugural fair in September of this year.) In those cities, businesses aligning themselves with the fair have come to enjoy what’s known as the “Frieze effect” — a bump in sales and brand awareness that comes with exposure to an affluent and aesthetically-minded audience. This year, with a new Beverly Hills location and its new director Christine Messineo overseeing both the New York and Los Angeles fairs, Frieze was poised to make good on pent-up demand for art, socialising, and travel — and the clothes to wear while enjoying it all.

Cary Leitzes, whose agency Leitzes & Co forms strategic partnerships between blue-chip artists and brands, said it’s early days for Frieze LA when it comes to the fashion industry’s presence: relatively quiet and ripe for opportunity.

“The eyeballs are here. The collectors are here. There’s a certain clientele here,” she said. “It’s a less crowded space.”

That space is spread throughout private homes, restaurants, hotels, clubs, and galleries across the city.

The gallerist Jeffrey Deitch co-hosted a show for the London-based artist Raqib Shaw with Dries Van Noten at Frieze LA.

A mile to the east of Dries Van Noten, Prada took over the West Hollywood eatery Genghis Cohen, for a two-day installation of panels and parties at Prada Mode — an invite-only social club the brand has popped up in cities including Miami, Moscow, and Paris. For this iteration, the artist Martine Syms installed an interactive ticker tape surrounding the dining room with direct messages from guests in the space. Outside, the parking lot was converted to a lounge punctuated with surveillance-style video screens — perfect for meta-selfies for guests, who included actors and artists such as Jeff Goldblum, Rashida Jones, Diamond Stingily and Jordan Wolfson.

There was a good deal of hand-wringing over the fair’s new location — a giant tent adjacent to the Beverly Hilton Hotel, as opposed to the Paramount Studios lot of years past — but A-listers were not deterred. Gwyneth Paltrow, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Rock, The Weeknd, Will Ferrell, James Corden, Pierce Brosnan, Usher and many more walked the aisles on Thursday’s preview day — as did superagent Ari Emanuel, the CEO of Endeavor, which now owns a controlling stake of Frieze.

While global mega-galleries were present and thriving — Gagosian reportedly sold a Chris Burden installation for shy of $2 million on Thursday — one section of the fair entitled “Focus L.A.” highlighted 11 Los Angeles-based galleries younger than 15 years old. In the Parker Gallery’s booth, pieces by Troy Lamarr Chew II juxtaposed images of contemporary ostentation — the rapper Slick Rick draped in diamonds — with textural representations of traditional Kpokpo weaving from Sierra Leone.

“It’s been a point of discovery, even for me,” Messineo said of the section. Another initiative championed by Messineo and conceived to celebrate local artists — a series of art-related nonprofits selected by the artist Tanya Aguiñiga and dubbed “the BIPOC exchange” — was situated in the Hilton’s sculpture garden.

The area offered some of the fair’s most affordable art. People’s Pottery Project sold platters, vases, and mugs by formerly incarcerated ceramicists starting at $28. By Thursday evening, the majority of the one-of-a-
kind sweatshirts painted and adorned by different artists exhibiting at Frieze had sold for $1,000 each to benefit AMBOS, Aguiñiga’s organization to provide art-based healing to LGBTQ+ migrants and refugees at the US-Mexico border.

In another corner of the fair, the chefs of the Bronx-based culinary collective Ghetto Gastro, who had been dressed by Matches Fashion — the fair’s flagship fashion sponsor — posed in the brand’s installation of sculptures that each held a luxury accessory: a silver Gucci slingback dangled by its block heel from a wood and stoneware vessel by the artist Yaya Situation. (A small black French bulldog also posed in an orange Carhartt jacket.)

An attendant offered Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate bars with a $100 gift code for Matches in exchange for email addresses. Matches Chief Brand Officer Jess Christie said a similar customer acquisition strategy at Frieze London had garnered over 10,000 new sign-ups for the site.

Fairgoers could double their gift to $200 by bringing their chocolate wrapper to a midcentury home in the Trousdale Estates neighbourhood of Beverly Hills where Matches set up shop for the week. Racks of dresses and separates transformed the home’s rooms into private shopping suites, and the pool deck became an event space throughout the week: a cocktail launch for Alexander McQueen’s Spring collection, brunch for Zoë de Givenchy’s homewares, dinner with the Haas Brothers and L’Objet.

Matches Fashion set up shop at a Beverly Hills home during Frieze LA, with private shopping suites and parties on the pool deck.

Six personal shoppers manned the estate, and Matches’ best Los Angeles customers were invited to bring friends for shopping. Christie said the fair’s new location was a boon for the brand.

“Location is so important in LA, and we always hear that from our customers,” said Christie, adding that clients specifically demand Beverly Hills. “They really want to see us, but it needs to be easy. It’s literally like, the Chateau is too far.”

Laure Hériard Dubreuil, who opened The Webster’s David Adjaye-designed space in Beverly Hills in January of 2020, said the whole week had been busy.

“People came for the Super Bowl and didn’t leave,” she said at a Wednesday evening cocktail event launching homewares by the Viso Project in the boutique.

Casey Fremont, the Los Angeles-based executive director of the Art Production Fund, kicked off her week at a private dinner hosted by the eco-fashion brand Another Tomorrow and Friday night found herself at another party on the terrace of Burberry’s Rodeo Drive store. Still, she said, it’s a tame social calendar compared to other global fairs.

“I’m planning to go to one thing a night,” she said. “Which feels very civilised compared to Miami Beach.”