LOS ANGELES. Merchandise Mart, the company that operates New York’s annual Armory Show, plans to launch a new Los Angeles art fair in late 2011, and has hired MOCA‘s Adam Gross as director of the event. Company representatives confirm that the new fair will take place next fall, but declined to provide further details pending an official announcement.
There have been rumors in recent years that Art Basel would either move Art Basel Miami Beach to Los Angeles or establish a second fair in the West Coast art capital, which has lately experienced growth in the prominence of its artists, collectors, galleries, and museums. Merchandise Mart, it seems, has beaten Art Basel to the punch.
To date the city has hosted only small-scale fine-art trade shows, none of which has achieved the professionalized international stature of the Armory Show. For more than a decade the Fine Art Dealers Association has mounted an annual show that assembles galleries offering work ranging from Old Masters to contemporary art, prints, and photography. A contemporary fair, artLA, launched in 2005 and returns this January for its sixth edition, while its sister photo l.a. is in its 20th year. Neither has risen to the level of the major East Coast and European international fairs. The fledgling Art Los Angeles Contemporary arose this past year, seeking to seize the contemporary art fair business, but has failed to attract many exhibitors from beyond the region.
Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., a division of Vornado Realty Trust, has the infrastructure and network to organize and promote a premier-grade show. The company owns and produces the Armory Show, Art Chicago, NEXT, Volta, and the Toronto International Art Fair. All of the company’s art fairs are overseen by Paul Morris.
The question now is whether Art Basel will enter the competition or hang back and watch how Merchandise Mart fares before launching any new venture.