A Double Dose of Art Comes to Downtown with Superfine! L.A. and the Los Angeles Art Show

Superfine! L.A. kicks off at the Magic Box at The Reef on Thursday, Feb. 6 and will showcase at a more affordable price range than most art fairs. 

Over the course of the last decade, Downtown Los Angeles has emerged as a vibrant and eclectic stronghold for the global art scene. A spectrum of larger institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art (which recently went free admission), the California African American Museum and The Broad, provide venues to showcase the work of standout artists, while a nexus of smaller galleries in the Arts District and beyond offer opportunities to check out the work for the next generation of artists.

Downtown is also host to a collection of huge annual art shows, two of which are setting up shop throughout the week in Downtown Los Angeles. Although they are not exactly going to flip the international art scene on its head, on a purely square footage basis, they’re two of the biggest art events in the city.

The Superfine! Art Fair, at DTLA’s Magic Box at The Reef and the L.A. Art Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center are both running from Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 6-9. The L.A. Art Show also has an opening night gala on Feb. 5.

While both shows bring out some of the best in the art world, they certainly have their differences. Below, Los Angeles Downtown News breaks down what to expect from the two art shows.

Bringing Equity to the Arts

Alex Mitow founded Superfine! alongside his managing partner James Millie and said that while other art festivals might place a focus on the larger, big-name artists who price their work at far loftier costpoints, most of the work at Superfine! falls between the $100-$5,000 range, which draws in a whole different audience of not just art collectors, but artists.

Mitow said that he expected anywhere close to 6,000-10,000 guests, who will visit anywhere from 60-70 booths. Tickets start at $12 with no drink and $24 with a drink.

Located in the 22,000-square-feet Magic Box, Mitow said that anywhere from 300-500 pieces of art will sell before the day is over, not counting subsequent sales made off of the connections made at the fair.

Those connections are paramount. Mitow said that it is the fair’s focus on the artists that really sets them apart from other art shows in Los Angeles and abroad. Mitow said after the first few events — this week’s fair will be their 12th total and second in Los Angeles — they learned that what people really seem to enjoy, is the connection with the artists. Mitow said that instead of simply providing a place for people to sell their art, they also provide training and seminars for the artists to learn how to speak to visitors about their work.

“The focus on the artist themselves is kind of unique,” Mitow said. “If you’ve been to other art shows, usually you’re talking to gallerists and that’s a thing in and of itself, but I think what we’re really seeing from our core audience is that they really like talking to the artists.”

While the fair is positioned as a place for collectors to purchase art, there are also some installations sprinkled throughout the fair.

Quava Wolf, a Mexican American artist, is displaying enlarged loteria cards, designed after famous Mexican figures. John Kilduff, who refers to himself as a maverick painter and performance artist, will set up a sequel to his ice cream parlor installation from last year, with a quirky, Wild West portrait studio. Rob Anderson will complete a 30-foot long mural at the fair. Guests will be able to swing by and add a couple of lines to the mural as Anderson completes it.

A Massive Art Show in DTLA

Not too far away from The Reef, the 25th annual Los Angeles Art Show takes over more than 200,000 square feet of exhibition space at the Los Angeles Convention Center. More than 100 galleries, representing art from at least 18 countries are expected to attend. There are also special exhibitions that highlight the diverse world of art.

It’s the largest iteration of the art show since the fair moved to the Convention Center in 2009.

“Twenty-five years ago when I began the L.A. Art Show, there weren’t any big art fairs here,” L.A. Art Show Founder Kim Martindale said. “This is one of the most creative cities on the planet, and I always hoped that we would become a major arts capital.”

While the focus has been on positioning Los Angeles as a major arts capital, the Art Show has always placed a particular interest in international art.

The show began in 1995 at the Pasadena Convention Center before moving to the L.A. Convention Center. With the added gallery space, attendance quickly ballooned to close more than 70,000 people over the course of the week. Single-day admission is $30, with four-day passes available for $60.

Most of the work at the show is up for sale-- including paintings, photos, sculptures and other pieces of art. The price range is wide and varied, some pieces fetch $100, with others grab hundreds of thousands of dollars or even reach into the million-dollar range.

Featured exhibitions include an exploration into the works of M.C. Escher. The artist’s work will be available to check out up close, and there will also be a special photo-booth set up to recreate the artist’s memorable sphere self portrait.

Copro Gallery is showcasing works from Los Angeles hyperrealist sculpture Kazu Hiro and Gallery Kitai will display Sogen Chiba’s 3.11 Requiem and Revival work, a transcription of numerous newspaper reports on the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Ten contemporary Chinese ink artists will also have their work displayed at the show.

Fashion also gets its due. Local fashion luminary Sue Wong has a gallery dedicated to her iconic design choices. Then there is DIVERSEartLA, a 50,000-square-feet space that the art show donates to organizations with a focus on civic engagement. Unlike most of the show, the work in this section is not up for sale.

The opening night for the fair will be held on Feb. 5, with proceeds going to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Actress Sophia Vergara will host the opening night gala.

The L.A. Art Show will run Feb. 5-9 at 1201 S. Figueroa St. or laartshow.com. Superfine! L.A. will run Feb. 6-9 at 1933 S. Broadway, (213) 763-5715 or superfine.world.

sthomas@timespoublications.com.