Why Not in Laguna?

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Guest columnist Peter Blake says bringing an international contemporary art fair here could lure new collectors to the scene.- By Peter Blak

In last month’s issue of Laguna Beach Magazine, I was asked to discuss the future for art galleries, and I commented on how important art fairs were in terms of marketing art today. I also mentioned that I felt it was important to bring an international contemporary art fair to Laguna. These comments prompted many discussions that helped inform both myself and local arts professionals as to the benefits for our community.

In January, I exhibited at the LA Art Show and experienced firsthand the power of exposing regional artwork to an international audience. It was great seeing all of the incredible art and dealers that had come from around the world, but especially gratifying to see my fellow local dealers exhibiting as well, including Joann Artman, Sue Greenwood, Ray Redfern and Saltfineart. I was thrilled to see that the Laguna galleries not only had great work but had actually set standards for the type of work they were exhibiting. We all were pleased with how many of our friends and collectors from Laguna attended and enjoyed the fair.

In February, Sue Greenwood and I exhibited in a new art fair that took place in Palm Springs (the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair). Its attendance (9,500) was remarkable for an inaugural fair. There was great energy both at the fair and around town. Locals were proud of the fact that their community had been chosen by the NY-based Hampton Group to launch this fair, and both locals and visitors were given an opportunity to enjoy art on an international level while acquainting themselves with the local galleries exhibiting as well. After exhibiting in these two fairs, I found myself asking, “Why not in Laguna?”

In 1995, a gallerist in Santa Fe founded Art Santa Fe. Over the last 17 years, it has helped establish Santa Fe as a well-respected destination for collectors of contemporary art. Santa Fe, like Laguna, already had a rich history of local art that for generations had established the area as a stop for collectors interested in the area’s vernacular.  Art Santa Fe simply added to the mix, further enriching the art scene and introducing contemporary art collectors to the area. I see a fair in Laguna doing the same for us, adding a contemporary component while celebrating our rich history of art.

We have a world-class destination complete with perfect weather and a built-in reputation for the arts. We have great hotels and restaurants, local shops and boutiques, galleries, three coveted art festivals and a museum. These fairs are usually held in convention centers and at event venues, and some of the fairs are even set up in hotels with gallerists exhibiting in their hotel rooms. Ideally, we would have what is known as a boutique fair; it is smaller (50 galleries) and is juried by local art professionals who decide which galleries best exemplify the fair’s direction.

The venue and timing would be chosen with sensitivity to locals and existing art events, and it would be organized by a professional and respected fair company that would handle the logistics and financials. Our reputation as an arts destination would be further enhanced by bringing contemporary collectors here from all over the world. LBM

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