Come July 1, 1999, PaceWildenstein Gallery in Los Angeles is closing its exhibition space at 9540 Wilshire Boulevard. The decision apparently resulted from lackluster press and the absence of foot traffic. Since Los Angeles is not a pedestrian city the gallery had too little of the kind of "off the street" sales that one finds in New York. Nevertheless, business at the L.A. branch was good, according to gallery spokesperson Andrea Bundonis.
PaceWildenstein is to maintain an L.A. office at the same space, overseen by PaceWildenstein associate director Fecia Mulry, but the entrance will be at 9536 Wilshire Boulevard. PaceWildensteinMacGill, the gallery's photography division, will no longer have a staff in Beverly Hills.
PaceWildenstein opened with much fanfare in September of 1995, and was widely viewed as the first blue-chip New York gallery to target wealthy Hollywood collectors in their home town. The inaugural reception made a big splash -- it was catered by Matsuhisa restaurant and reportedly cost in excess of $200,000. The entire block of Wilshire Blvd. was closed for the party, and the event resembled a movie premiere as much as a gallery opening.
Art-world insiders had gossiped about problems at the gallery's L.A. branch for some time. The luxurious gallery space, designed by Gwathmey Siegal, was widely considered problematic for showing art; the line of sight on the lower level is distracted by hallways and mezzanines, and the space on the upper level is so narrow that viewers can't stand back far enough to look at the art. Over a year ago, the gallery's Los Angeles director, Marc Selwyn, left to form Grant Selwyn Fine Art with Anthony Grant, a former sales associate at the New York gallery. Grant Selwyn now has exhibition spaces in Beverly Hills and on 57th Street in New York, and PaceWildenstein has still not hired a new director.
IRIT KRYGIER is a writer and independent curator living in Los Angeles.