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    Hot in L.A.
by Irit Krygier
 
     
 
Randy Sommer and Bob Gunderman
(Acme's directors)
on a sculpture by Pentti Monkkonen


Dealer portraits by Homan Li
 
John Sonsini
Gabriel
1999
at Acme
 
Marc Foxx
standing in his gallery.
 
Evan Holloway
Color Theory Stick
2000
at Marc Foxx Gallery
 
Bennett and Julie Roberts of Roberts & Tilton Gallery
 
Amir Zaki
Untitled (Down_WLSH 01)
1999
at Roberts and Tilton
 
Christine Nichols
of Works on Paper Gallery, Inc.
 
Damien Smith
Sunset No. 1
1999
at Works on Paper
 
Brian Buttler
of 1301PE, with Pae White installation.
 
Jorge Pardo
Untitled
(installation view)
1998-2000
1301PE/Brain Multiples division.
 
Karyn Lovegrove
 
Candida Höfer
Funkhaus Kön III
1983
at Karyn Lovegrove
 
Daniel Weinberg
 
In a town where galleries tend to congregate in pockets scattered throughout the city, one of the essential stops for the Los Angeles art-lover is the 6150 Wilshire complex. Here you find seven galleries -- Daniel Weinberg, 1301PE, Karyn Lovegrove, Marc Foxx, Acme, Roberts and Tilton, and Works on Paper, Inc.

The 6150 building is a typical white structure from the 1930s -- a former Lanz Clothiers building -- that hardly looks like a cultural center to a motorist passing by on Wilshire Boulevard. Once inside the parking lot, the viewer sees the cluster of galleries, which are built on two floors around a central outdoor courtyard. The doors of the galleries swung open to reveal polished contemporary gallery spaces.

The 6150 complex opened to the public in January 1998 with a core group of three galleries: ACME, Marc Foxx and Dan Bernier. The property is owned by former California State Senator (and art collector) Alan Serioty, who gained notoriety in art circles for authoring California's five-percent resale royalty law. One of the aspects that attracted the dealers to the building, according to Marc Foxx, a Los Angeles native, was "that feeling it had of old Los Angeles."

ACME, Fox and Bernier first gained notice at their former location in the industrial area of Santa Monica. The move to an overlooked area of Wilshire Boulevard now seems visionary -- halfway between Beverly Hills and Hollywood, two blocks from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and a three-minute drive from the galleries, shopping and restaurants of La Brea. The entertainment crowd (such as art collectors Dean Valentine and Michael Ovitz) are so often seen at 6150 that Vanity Fair magazine chose to feature the complex in its yearly Hollywood issue.

Of the three original galleries at 6150, there was one recent casualty. At the end of 1999 Dan Bernier closed his space and was in talks with several dealers to take over his lease. His successor turned out to be Roberts & Tilton Gallery, launched on Jan. 1, 2000, by New York gallerist Jack Tilton in partnership with Los Angeles art dealers Bennett and Julie Roberts. Bernier was able to negotiate being retained by Roberts & Tilton as a consultant, for which he will be receiving a yearly stipend. Bernier then left the art world to begin graduate studies for his MBA.

When asked why he and his partners chose this particular location, Tilton's reply was that "6150 Wilshire is the new focal point for new art in Los Angeles. More than Bergamot Station, and perhaps with the exception of the new galleries in Chinatown, the 6150 complex is where people now go to look at cutting-edge art. I thought it would be more fun than opening a gallery in Chelsea!"

This is the second art gallery for Bennett Roberts, who in partnership with Richard Heller (whose gallery is now located in Bergamot Station) owned Richard/Bennett Gallery from 1986 to 1992. In the intervening years, Roberts was dealing privately out of his house in West Los Angeles. His wife Julie worked for secondary market dealer Jonathan Novak. Roberts & Tilton will represent Los Angeles artists Charles La Belle, Michelle Fierro, and two newcomers Amir Zaki and Evan MacDonald. Julie Roberts will conduct secondary market sales from their back room.

Randy Sommer and Bob Gunderman direct Acme, which arguably is the cornerstone of the complex. Acme's disciplined program features primarily local artists, many of whom have gone on to have high-profile art careers.

Acme originally opened in 1994, at the depth of the Los Angeles art market recession. The gallery began by working with only four artists: Jennifer Steinkamp, Uta Barth, Chris Findley and Joyce Lightbody. Other artists created projects for the space but the decision was made early on to keep the stable small and only add artists very slowly. Acme also had no back room selling works on the secondary market, which had been a formula for so many galleries, particularly in the 1980's. "What Randy and Bob did have were good eyes and they were adventurous. They were also sensitive to certain changes in the art world in what people wanted to look at. They set new standards," says Acme artist Kevin Hanley, who recently had a one-person show at Rocket Gallery in London.

The partners first worked together at Food House, an alternative space that Gunderman had opened in the early 1990's with artists Steve Herzog and Leonard Bravo. Sommer later joined as a fourth partner. They are part of an elite group of gallerists in Los Angeles who have been able to position themselves as primary dealers for artists (rather than being only their local representatives). Laura Owens and Monique Prieto are among the artists who have gained critical acclaim and support as part of the recent explosion of the so-called "new abstraction." The waiting lists for their pieces have become so long that collectors now have to wait two years before they can buy a painting. Prieto's recent exhibition went mostly to museum collections.

Gunderman and Sommer are not dealers who like to be pigeonholed in a certain style of art. Using their talent to pinpoint the zeitgeist, Acme has made the unexpected move of exhibiting the provocative figurative painter John Sonsini (one of two artists they selected from the stable of Dan Bernier, the other being Bernier star artist Martin Kersels). They also work with Kurt Kauper, Kim Dingle and sculptors Carlos Mollura and Pentti Monkkonen, a recent addition and UCLA graduate, who will be seen later this year at the Hammer Museum as part of newly arrived (formerly of New York's Drawing Center) curator James Elaine's "Projects" series.

Marc Foxx represents a small group of Los Angeles artists but the majority of his exhibitions are artists from New York, Europe and Asia who had been covered in the art press (Artforum and Wallpaper are favorites) but had been underexposed locally. Formerly the blue chip approach had been the formula for importing artists from out of town. Foxx felt that the L.A. art public (particularly the entertainment industry sector that has become the core of his clientele) had become more traveled and sophisticated. He thought that there was an audience for a more adventurous international artistic presence. Foxx represents local artists Jason Meadows, Frances Stark, Brian Calvin and Evan Holloway, and has been able to negotiate international representation for each of them through extensive traveling to other art centers..

The fourth gallery to open in 6150 was Christine Nichols and her Works on Paper Gallery, Inc. Nichols works with artists represented by other galleries for their paintings and sculpture. Her formula is to sell work that her peers (professionals in their late 20s and early 30s) can afford to buy. Most of the art at Works on Paper is priced in the $500 to $1,500 range. She loves the intimacy of drawings and considers them as a vehicle to educate new collectors. Nichols publishes a catalogue for every exhibition and commissions writers such as Bill Arning, Laurence Rickles, Michael Darling and Christopher Sweet to write catalogue essays.

Nichols has been able to coach a clientele of first-time collectors who buy out her exhibitions. As with Foxx, business trips to New York and Europe are an important part of her effort to support the artists she represents. Artists who have shown in the gallery include Martin Kippenburger, Fabian Marcaccio, Sharon Lowden, Peggy Preheim and Kim McCarty.

6150 next added one of the brightest dealers in Los Angeles to its group when Brian Butler opened his formerly underground gallery, 1301PE, in the complex's second expansion in February of 1999. Butler has an unusual approach to art dealing. He does not represent artists, but works with a core group on individual projects that interest him, which includes publishing projects under his "Brain Multiples" division. He also does not sell on the secondary market.

1301PE and Brain Multiples have collaborated with an notable group of international artists. Michael Asher, Meg Cranston, Jorge Pardo, Diana Thater, Paul McCarthy, Martin Kippenberger, Jason Rhoades, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Mike Kelley and Pae White among them.

Karyn Lovegrove was a surprise addition to the complex and an unknown quantity to Los Angeles audiences when she opened her space about 18 months ago. Since then she has assembled one the city's most sophisticated and exciting new gallery programs. A native of Melbourne, Lovegrove had operated a major contemporary art gallery there since 1991. She was works as an art consultant for the Australian operations of British Petroleum Corporation and IBM, for whom she assembled the definitive collection of Australian contemporary art (over 2,000 objects).

In 1997, Lovegrove closed her gallery and moved to Los Angeles to get married (to a music industry executive). She joins a community of expatriate Australians who are having an enormous impact on the de-provincializing of the local cultural landscape. They include Art and Text publisher Paul Foss (who has recently headquartered his highly regarded publication in Los Angeles) and China Art Object Galleries curator and Artforum contributor Giovanni Intra.

Lovegrove's program is international. She shows local artists Ingrid Calame and Francesca Gabbiani, German photographers Candida Hoffer and Axel Hutte, Australian artists such as Howard Arkley and British artists Simon Perriton and James Aldridge, among others. She has also exhibited Karen Kilimnick, Nan Goldin, Bernd and Hilla Becher and others in exquisite conceptual group exhibitions.

6150 entered the realm of the blue-chip when in January of this year when dealer Daniel Weinberg opened in a converted house on the edge of the complex. Weinberg originally opened in L.A., but had left for San Francisco, in part because it was his home and in part because he felt it was a better place to raise his young children. But he has a long history here having built many of Los Angeles blue chip collections of the 1980s, and says he missed the more vital urban quality of the Los Angeles art scene.

Weinberg has organized his gallery as a recreation of his San Francisco private viewing space, furnished with Alvar Aalto armchairs and George Nelson benches. His large office has an assortment of works by the artists he has worked with for decades, including Richard Artschwager, Lee Bontecou, John Chamberlain, Agnes Martin, Robert Mangold and John McLaughlin. He says that he chose 6150 because he is stimulated by this new generation of talented dealers.


IRIT KRYGIER is a writer based in Los Angeles. She can be reached at irit@gte.net.