Bettina Korek
Photo: Johnny Le

How Bettina Korek Is Transforming L.A. into a Breeding Ground for Future Art Patrons

The executive director of Frieze LA speaks to Galerie about leading the biggest international fair moment that Los Angeles has ever seen

As Los Angeles gears up for the first iteration of Frieze LA, which kicks off with a VIP preview on Valentine’s Day at Paramount Pictures Studio, anticipation is building for what this international fair will bring to the city. While droves of art-world heavy hitters will likely be drawn from all corners of the globe as well as Hollywood’s own glittering backyard, the fair’s executive director, Bettina Korek, is intent on making Frieze LA just as welcoming to the uninitiated.

“The aura of making the impossible possible that draws people to L.A. in the first place is really palpable here,” Korek tells Galerie.

The fair will offer the traditional experience, including a gamut of brand-name galleries—from Gagosian to Marian Goodman—in its main tent, but it will also play host to an array of artist projects in the back lot curated by Ali Subotnick, featuring artworks by Nicolas Party, Sarah Cain, Max Hooper Schneider, and Lisa Anne Auerbach.

Paul McCarthy’s Daddies Tomato Ketchup Inflatable (2007) will be one of the works on view in the projects section of Frieze LA in the back lot of Paramount Pictures. Photo: Misha de Ridder. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

An unofficial guide to the city, which will be distributed at galleries and cultural spaces throughout the city, is also intended to encourage Angelenos and visitors alike to experience all that the art world has to offer. “Being more focused on public art, one of the things I learned is that collecting is part of patronage,” says Korek. “And an art fair can allow people to enter into the art community and begin to form their own route through it. My personal passion is the potential that it has to be a breeding ground for L.A.’s future patrons.”

Recommended: The Ultimate Art Insider’s Guide to Los Angeles During Frieze Week

If anyone knows how to reach different communities in the insular art world, it’s Korek. In 2006, she launched her nonprofit, ForYourArt, with a vision of leveling the playing field of patronage. The organization touts the transformative power of public art and promotes events and exhibitions around Los Angeles. Korek is also a member of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, so she brings a civic sensibility to everything she does, even when it entails connecting with big-name talents. And having been born and raised in the city, she gets the crowd. Galerie spoke to Korek to better understand her plans for Frieze LA. Here’s an edited version of our chat:

There are already established fairs in L.A., such as Art Los Angeles Contemporary, which has been around for over a decade. And then there are some that have tried and failed to land—Paris Photo, FIAC LA, and Paramount Ranch to name a few. Why is L.A. ripe for another art fair?
L.A. is friendly, but it can also be quite elusive. One of the characteristics of a lifestyle here, especially for collectors, is that it can be very domestic. There are people for whom collecting is a creative expression. But we haven’t had this international-art-fair moment yet that brought both collectors from L.A. and around the world. We’re so excited about how much is going on during Frieze week, and I think that’s an articulation of how interested and invested people are in the potential for success.

L.A. gallery David Kordansky will present a solo booth of new work by Kathryn Andrews at Frieze LA. Photo: Courtesy of David Kordansky

Regarding the fairs that have come and gone in L.A.—why is it so hard for a fair to have staying power here?
It’s partly infrastructure. Also, having that desire to build a local community around it. Having grown up in the city, I’m exposed to what people who don’t live and breathe the art world are seeing. And having worked on both iterations of Pacific Standard Time, I saw how much those initiatives did to increase the general consciousness here about how important L.A. is as an art city. Nothing happens overnight, and the local fairs that have continued do have a base of support. I think that is a reflection that there is a deepening audience and base of collectors.

What is Frieze LA doing differently from other fairs already out there?
Having worked on ForYourArt, I thought how do we produce a guide to art in L.A. that resonates with an art-world audience but is also accessible to someone who’s curious. And I think that’s an issue that a lot of us face on different scales. Being an art-world professional, it can be easy to forget how intimidating that art context is. When I was at Frieze London and talking to galleries, something that came up a lot is that L.A. is a flatter city, literally, and in the way that people relate to each other. My hope is that Frieze LA can be a little bit of a friendlier environment. It is an access point to meet local and international galleries and create relationships that last throughout the year.

There are so many things happening around the main tent. What is the best way for newbies to navigate it?
Part of the reason we created Routes in the Frieze Week guide was to help people make the most of their time here. It will include ALAC and Felix. The evolution of Frieze week is that it’s being embraced as a platform that galleries, institutions, and artists embrace. One of the reasons we were excited about why they made this commitment to Los Angeles is we want Frieze week to catalyze energy all over the city and that what is happening at Paramount emanates outside the lot.

As part of the curated film program at Frieze LA, Tom Sachs’s 2018, Paradox Bullets, which was directed by Van Neistat and narrated by Werner Herzog, will be screened in the historic Paramount Theatre. The screening will be followed by a conversation between Neistat, Herzog, and Sachs. Photo: © Tom Sachs

Who is Frieze LA’s main audience?
It’s a mix. There are a number of museum groups coming from the U.S., Europe, and Asia. In the first year, we wanted to build a foundation of a community around Frieze. So having the local collectors and patrons embrace this and their roles as ambassadors for the L.A. community has been really important. Being more focused on public art, one of the things I learned is that collecting is part of patronage. And an art fair can allow people to enter into the art community and begin to form their own route through it. My personal passion is the potential that it has to be a breeding ground for L.A.’s future patrons.

Being in partnership with Endeavor, the talent agency owned by Ari Emanuel (which merged with William Morris), which has a long history in Los Angeles, should we expect a large Hollywood presence at the fair?
We’re already in Hollywood, and we have a couple of programs with strong connections to film on the site. Werner Herzog is going to be here talking with Tom Sachs. Whether on the host committee or people from the entertainment industry who have been attending the gallery visits that we’ve been doing over the course of the entire year, we absolutely hope that the fair does draw the entertainment community as well as the local art community, which is also important to us.

Why have it at Paramount Pictures Studios?
It’s Hollywood. The aura of making the impossible possible that draws people to L.A. in the first place is really palpable here. It’s also symbolic: The fair is taking place between the Oscars and the Grammys—so it puts art on that event calendar between music and film. Paramount is also a city within the city. You look up and see the Hollywood sign. It’s a dream factory.

Frieze LA is on view at Paramount Pictures Studios in Los Angeles from February 15 to 17. Single-day tickets to both the outdoor curated program and galleries section costs $50, and one-day admission to only the exhibition in the back lot is $20. Student tickets can be purchased for $10.

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