Four Top Art Advisors on How to Navigate Frieze LA

Photography by @JulieSkarrattphotographyinc and courtesy of Wendy Cromwell.

Wendy Cromwell

Wendy Cromwell has led an illustrious and varied career in the arts. Before she founded Cromwell Art LLC, she ran a Fortune 500 Corporate Art collection, and later served as vice president of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art. Now, 20 years into her solo venture, she has the fair circuit down to a science. For the established advisor, glitzy events and celebrity sightings are not on the Frieze week schedule: “I leave the parties to my staff, and unwind on my flight home.”

CULTURED: What's your go-to strategy for tackling the fair?

WENDY CROMWELL: I start with each client’s wish list, inquiring about specific artists from targeted galleries in advance. Most galleries ship their selections a month before the opening, so I start sourcing early. I try to hold work whenever possible so the client has a chance to see it in person, but not all galleries accept holds. At fairs, fortune favors the bold!

CULTURED: What do you think sets the LA art scene apart?

CROMWELL: I’m always amazed by how tight-knit the art ecosystem in LA is, and am struck by how level it feels compared to New York, which is more stratified. The barriers between artists, collectors, and dealers feel nonexistent, and that facilitates a real community. There isn’t a separation between “uptown” and “downtown.” In LA, as long as you’re willing to make the trek, you’re “in.”

CULTURED: Which artists are you currently most excited about?

CROMWELL: Many emerging artists I follow are from California—either LA or the Bay Area. There is a palpable openness and optimism that’s enormously appealing. It’s evident in both figuration and abstraction. Maybe it comes from being so close to the Pacific ocean and nature. I also love LA ceramic artists, but it wouldn’t be fair to name names. My list would cover a whole page.

CULTURED: What was your favorite Frieze moment last year? Perhaps a celebrity sighting?

CROMWELL: At art fairs, I have my blinders on—I need to be kicked in the shins in order to notice celebrities. I know, what’s wrong with me?  One of my favorite Frieze moments was discovering the work of Minjae Kim, a trained architect whose furniture and lighting struck me with its blend of Korean influences and Modernist sculptural sensibility.

CULTURED: What’s your preferred fair uniform?

CROMWELL: I prefer a low-key look: flats and a good cross-body. But I get a kick out of seeing all the fab outfits at the fair. Last year, silver pants were a thing. I can’t wait to see what’s trending this year.

CULTURED: You just spent three hours combing the booths at the fair, and now you’re off to Chateau Marmont for dinner. Where do you stop for a drink?

CROMWELL: After being inside all day, I need outdoor time—particularly as the sun sets in LA. I like the Soho House rooftop, and also the rooftop at the West Hollywood Edition.

CULTURED: Top spots to land a last-minute reservation for dinner with a client?

CROMWELL: For a bite downtown post-gallery hopping, Soho Warehouse. Also, Manuela at Hauser & Wirth never disappoints. If we’re making the Hollywood gallery rounds, Gigi’s (conveniently located near Deitch), or the garden at Horses for the buzzy, al fresco vibe.

CULTURED: What survival items do you keep in your bag?

CROMWELL: I’d probably get arrested if I told you the truth.

CULTURED: How will Frieze's relocation to Santa Monica change the experience?

CROMWELL: The fair is larger this year, with more exhibitors. As it’s far from competing events in Hollywood, I’m thinking day two will be a great day to visit without the crowds. I’m interested to see how Frieze activates their outdoor space, something they didn’t have last year.

Photography by Evelyn Henriquez and courtesy of Nancy Gamboa.

Nancy Gamboa

Nancy Gamboa embraces LA's many urban idiosyncracies—after all, its sprawling topography has played a defining role in making the city's art scene what it is today. The LA-based advisor began working with clients in 2012. Now, she runs her own eponymous boutique advisory, and her digital platform, Botanica Fine Art, promotes and nurtures the work of Latinx artists. Here, she shares her top tricks for navigating the fair with ease, and reveals her favorite spot for late-night Italian food on the West Side. 

CULTURED: Over the years, what's the strategy you’ve developed for tackling a fair?

NANCY GAMBOA: Preparation is key. I pore over at least 100 previews so that I am as informed as possible about what’s on view. I relay anything not already in the pipeline to the appropriate clients. Then, I become familiar with the fair map so that my clients have a highly targeted, seamless experience. Next step is to lock in the dinners and fun events. After the serious business is done, I like to unwind over a great meal in the company of friends.

CULTURED: What sets the LA art scene apart?

GAMBOA: The landscape defines the terms for any city, and this is especially true for LA. Its expansiveness provides a wealth of opportunities for diverse artists to set up studios, and new and established galleries to find a home. David Zwirner, Lisson, Sargent's Daughters, and Sea View are just a few of the galleries opening in our city this year. This, combined with the confluence of a highly engaged art community, excellent BFA and MFA programs, and world-renowned museums and galleries makes for a robust and dynamic art scene.

CULTURED: Which artists are you most excited about in particular?

GAMBOA: The sculptor Kelly Akashi is opening a project titled “Heirloom,” created in collaboration with Jay Ezra Nayssan of Del Vaz Projects at Villa Aurora during Frieze week. Akashi has a solo exhibition currently on view at the San Jose Museum of Art, with forthcoming exhibitions opening at the Henry Art Gallery and Frye Art Museum later this year. Abstract painter Emma McIntyre has a solo exhibition that opened Feb. 10 at Chateau Shatto gallery, as well as a solo presentation opening Mar. 10 at Le Consortium in Dijon, France. Multidisciplinary artist Lauren Halsey, whose ambitious and highly anticipated Met Rooftop installation opens Apr. 17, will have works on view at David Kordansky Gallery during the run of the fair. Painter Julia Yerger has had recent shows with New Low Gallery and Paul Soto here in LA, with exciting things to come stateside and internationally this year.

CULTURED: How many of your clients shop before the doors even open?

GAMBOA: While most of the urgent business is done prior to the fair—or confirmed within the first hour—there is always room for discovery. I encourage my clients to let me know if anything catches their eye so we can investigate what it is that drew them to that piece on the spot. The benefit of any art fair is that you can see a wide variety of works up close and ask the questions that need answering in real time. My gallery colleagues are experts on the artists they represent, and I take advantage of the opportunity to engage them about works that may be of interest.

CULTURED: Do you have a go-to fair uniform?

GAMBOA: Pragmatism is vital. I love a suit or long dress and sensible shoes. The goal is to feel put together, but comfortable enough to stay on my feet for as many hours as necessary to get the job done.

CULTURED: You just spent three hours combing the booths at the fair, and now you’re off to Chateau Marmont for dinner. Where do you stop for a drink?

GAMBOA: Dan Tana’s is an old-school, Italian, LA staple that always delivers a great time and a killer Martini.

CULTURED: Top spots to land a last-minute reservation for dinner with a client?

GAMBOA: I’m a person of habit, and Cecconi’s has great food, drinks, and service. Further east, Musso & Frank.

CULTURED: What survival items do you keep in your bag?

GAMBOA: Phone charger, annotated fair map, sunglasses, lip gloss.

Photography by Terrance Purdy Jr. and courtesy of Anwarii Musa.

Anwarii Musa

The New York-based advisor has over a decade of experience advising clients from across the country on their contemporary collections. The Queens-born consultant got his start as an intern art handler at Sotheby’s, and quickly became a permanent member of the team. In 2014, Musa ventured out on his own to found his own advisory, ArtMatic. When the advisor comes to town for Frieze, he makes sure to stop at Harriet's Rooftop for city views, and hike up Runyon Canyon to clear his mind. 

CULTURED: What sets the LA art scene apart?

ANWARII MUSA: Because Frieze is in LA, it's the fair where you're going to see the most celebrities, for sure. But what sets it apart for me is the artist community. I was able to connect with so many amazing artists over the years, including Yoyo Lander, Lauren Quin, Simphiwe Ndzube, and Henry Taylor (who currently has an incredible show at MOCA). The artists definitely set the tone in LA.

CULTURED: Who are you most excited to see?

MUSA: I'm looking forward to seeing Chase Hall’s solo presentation at David Kordansky's booth. It's going to be his LA coming-out party. I'm also excited to see Dyani White Hawk and Diedrick Brackens' two-person booth at Various Small Fires, Nate Lewis at Fridman’s booth at Felix, and Ernie Barnes at UTA.

CULTURED: Do you ever encourage clients to hold off on buying and allow room for discovery?

MUSA: It's so important to leave room for discovery. If my clients are attending the fair, I always make sure to put works on hold if there's something I think they'll like, so they can see what they are buying in person first. It's important if they are discovering an artist for the first time that they actually see the work. For my clients that don't attend, there's room to get creative—like Facetiming or Zoom.

CULTURED: What outfit gets you through seven events in a day?

MUSA: My number one rule at any art fair is to have something comfortable on your feet—you're going to be doing a lot of walking. For me, a nice pair of Common Projects sneakers and an AMI PARIS sweater goes perfectly with the LA weather.

CULTURED: When you’re in the city, where do you stop for a drink?

MUSA: My go-to spot is Harriet’s Rooftop to have an old-fashioned with Japanese whiskey. It's a great place to wind down before or after dinner. The stunning view of the city gives it an added plus as well.

CULTURED: Top spots to land a last-minute reservation for dinner with a client?

MUSA: I'm a big foodie, so Alta for some good soul food, Pace for Italian, and if you like vegan, Gracias Madre in West Hollywood is my go-to.

CULTURED: Which Frieze acquisition are you most proud of?

MUSA: A beautiful Sam Gilliam work from Pace Gallery. It was a special moment for my client to add that to their collection.

CULTURED: How will Frieze's relocation to Santa Monica change the experience?

MUSA: I tell everyone that Frieze LA is one of my favorite fairs to attend because of the unique locations where it takes place (first the Paramount Studios lot, then the Beverly Hilton lot). I'm expecting the Santa Monica Airport location to achieve the same effect. Just make sure you plan your commute an hour out if you're not staying in the Santa Monica area. LA traffic is no joke. 

CULTURED: When you’re at the fair, where is your quiet place?

MUSA: I always make sure to take a hike up Runyon Canyon beforehand. It gets me mentally prepared for a busy week of making deals.

Photography by Sharon Suh and courtesy of Karyn Lovegrove.

Karyn Lovegrove

For the LA-based advisor, access is crucial to getting the most out of the market. Luckily, Karyn Lovegrove has over 20 years of experience in the city's art community (most recently as the founder of her eponymous Karyn Lovegrove Art Advisory), and has consulted on private collections and large commercial projects alike. For the LA veteran, outsmarting traffic is a daily requirement—but this Frieze week, she may just take to the skies.

CULTURED: You've been attending fairs for years. What's your strategy?

 KARYN LOVEGROVE: Relationships are key to collecting art. Art fairs, and the events and parties around them, are an opportunity to connect with gallerists and colleagues. We are always on the ground opening day, but a leisurely Saturday or Sunday morning visit allows us to spend more time with gallerists.

CULTURED: Which artists are you most excited about?

LOVEGROVE: Rita Ackermann at Hauser & Wirth in DTLA, Hayley Barker and Shannon Cartier Lucy at Night Gallery, Kathleen Ryan’s exhibition at François Ghebaly, Friedrich Kunath at Blum & Poe, and Kehinde Wiley at Roberts Projects's new space in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles.

CULTURED: How many of your clients shop before the doors even open?

LOVEGROVE: Art fairs are very much a “you snooze, you lose” deal. Ninety-five percent of our clients have purchased work prior to the fair opening. It’s our job to educate our clients in advance of art fairs so that when they are offered great work, they don’t hesitate.

CULTURED: Do you have a go-to fair outfit?

LOVEGROVE: Celine suit. Chanel sneakers.

CULTURED: You just spent three hours combing the booths at the fair. Where do head next for a drink?

LOVEGROVE: The bar at San Vicente Bungalows, or The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

CULTURED: What are your top spots for dinner with a client?

LOVEGROVE: Madeo, Gigi’s Hollywood, and Sushi Park.

CULTURED: Which Frieze acquisition are you most proud of?

LOVEGROVE: I love all of my children equally, but I really love Rashid Johnson, Nicolas Party, and Luchita Hurtado.

CULTURED: What survival items do you keep in your bag?

LOVEGROVE: Multiple Mophies.

CULTURED: How will Frieze's new Santa Monica location change the Frieze experience?

LOVEGROVE: I could use a helicopter.

CULTURED: This Frieze week, which parties are you most excited to attend?

LOVEGROVE: Hauser & Wirth's George Condo opening at their new West Hollywood space! Victoria Miro’s Doron Langberg celebration and Gagosian’s party at Bar Marmont.