Monday, January 21, 2013


Open it and they will come. You hope…
A number of galleries are making the move in search of the right area

By Charlotte Burns. Focus, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 16 January 2013

One of the great truisms about Los Angeles is the huge amount of cheap space available. But, in a city so vast and with such fast-moving cultural centres, finding the best place to establish a space can be complicated, according to galleries and LA real estate agents.

Culver City—cluster central

“When we moved here nine years ago, it cost $1 per sq. ft. Now it’s much more, though still affordable,” says Tim Blum, the co-founder of Blum & Poe. “If you are doing great things in a great space, serious people will show up. But to keep growing with your artists you’ll have to keep up on real estate moves because to be at the top of the heap you must have great space, great programming, great parking and be easy to find,” he adds. 

After the gallery bought and renovated a building in the area, others followed, and Culver City remains one of the few real gallery hubs in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, real estate agent Martin McDermott of Avison Young says that while galleries in the area “got close to pulling off a solid location, it lacks parking and amenities—and things works best when restaurants and bars join in with the galleries”. 

Hollywood—up and coming

Regen Projects became a major lynchpin in the area after buying and renovating a large new space, which opened in September. “The most promising area of development in terms of available space and affordable price is Hollywood. It’s easy to reach from both the west and east, and there are storefronts and warehouse spaces available. Parts of Hollywood have fallen into disrepair, but others have already been redeveloped,” says the longstanding LA gallerist Michael Kohn, who has bought a building on Highland Avenue. His new space is scheduled to open next year. 

More space is now available because old Hollywood industries are dying out, says Hannah Hoffman, who also plans to open a new gallery in the area next year. “It’s an old manufacturing part of town, and as the Hollywood industry becomes increasingly digitised, its need for physical space decreases—I’ve seen a few film archives cleared into dumpsters as the building gets turned into retail space.” 

“What makes this area work is that it is closer than the downtown areas, such as the Arts District, Chinatown, Echo Park, etc, to where the money is for art—Hancock Park, Beverly Hills, West LA, but it still has edge,” adds Martin McDermott. 

West Hollywood and Beverly Hills—ker-ching!

“Cheap is relative. West Hollywood galleries are moving to Hollywood, for example,” says McDermott. While major-brand gallery Gagosian remains in the area, many others have been priced out. “The highbrow parts of LA are quite expensive: Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, and parts of Santa Monica cost around $10 to $30 per sq. ft, per month,” says Michael Kohn. 

Downtown—wait and see

The “Grand Avenue Project”, which was born a decade ago during a real-estate boom, finally seems to be gathering momentum, mainly thanks to the efforts of billionaire art collector Eli Broad. He plans to open the Broad Museum there in 2014, near the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, which he supports financially, and close to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which Broad oversaw fundraising for. Nonetheless, the galleries are not necessarily following suit because, while rents are cheap, few collectors want to travel there. “The area is an institutional cultural hub, not an organic one. It’s a complete non-event if one is discussing ‘cool areas’,” says real estate agent Chuck Cowley of Cowley Real Estate Partners. Nonetheless, Peter Goulds, the director of LA Louver, believes that “eventually it will all be downtown—even though people in LA might think I’m not in my right mind to say so.” 

Chinatown—once hot, now not

Chinatown had a real moment in the early 2000s when galleries flocked to the area, but lost ground in the latter part of the decade when major galleries including Peres Projects (which now operates only from Berlin) and David Kordansky migrated to Culver City. “Chinatown was cool [be]cause it was exotic and cheap, but it inevitably had to change—it’s just too far,” says Tim Blum. 

Nonetheless, some notable galleries remain in the area, including The Box, a project space run by Mary McCarthy, the daughter of the artist Paul McCarthy, and the Thomas Solomon Gallery, which previously existed as the influential space Thomas Solomon’s Garage between 1987 and 1996. 

Where are all the artists?

Silver Lake “was cool about 15 years ago”, says Tim Blum, adding that Highland Park is a major hub for artists and musicians, and that the far southeast area of downtown is becoming a spot for large cheap studios with artists such as Sterling Ruby and Sam Durant there. 

The young gallerist Thomas Duncan says that “a good deal of the studio visits I have done have been in Eagle Rock or Highland Park,” though adds that he visits artists “all over the city, from Venice to East LA.

Real estate agent Chuck Cowley advises artists to “look south of Silver Lake to Echo Park, Westlake or south of the 10 freeway. Alternatively, north of Silver Lake, roughly running along the southeast 5, beginning in Atwater Village to Glassell Park, to the area of Glendale along the LA River, to Chinatown, to the Arts District and into Vernon.”

Gallerist Hannah Hoffman, new to LA, votes for “Topanga Canyon. It is beautiful if a little secluded, with lots of land—and not too bad of a drive to the beach.”

To read more from the Los Angeles focus in our January issue, pick up a copy on newsstands or subscribe to our digital or print editions.

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