Avalon Lurks (left) and Dese Escobar (right) at the PIN-UP party, EDITION Hotel, Los Angeles

7pm in Los Angeles

Been to one fair, been to ‘em all: the Ubers are expensive, the hangovers relentless, and is FRIEZE really at an airport? An LA VIP dishes on why the art world keeps showing face.

Its Valentine’s Day!


In LA for the kick-off of Frieze, it’s become apparent that, in the past few years, the event has really proven to be one of the more fun art-fair weeks – and none of it has to do with the fair itself.

Every year, I stop by the Dries Van Noten store for their pop-up space, The Little House, which this year featured new work by British artist Ryan Gander. Among Gander’s wiry, figurative sculptures, one unusual attraction that caught my eye was a sort of twitchy little blackbird, perched with an attention-seeking manner atop what was literally a matte-black, metal-framed painting, which enraptured the shiny-faced PR types all around me, gladly clutching their cans of beer, to my dismay the only bev on offer at the door.

View of Ryan Gander, ”Feelin’ Everythin’, Whilst Doin’ Nothin’,” 2023

View of Ryan Gander, ”Feelin’ Everythin’, Whilst Doin’ Nothin’,” Dries Van Noten’s The Little House, Los Angeles, 2023

After one cute snap of the artist and another of my new pumps – perfectly matched with my 90s Gaultier skirt and reflected in a mirrored pedestal – I slid on outta there and headed downtown for the Carla launch party at the Ace Hotel. The windchill on the rooftop deck was more than this scantily clad party-goer could bare, but the drinks were fab and the issue looked promising, which is more than can often be expected of print mags these days.

I was swooped up from the Ace by my newly minted colleague at Zora Zine, Blaine O’Neill, who raced us down Broadway to catch the tail end of Jonas Wendelin’s exhibition, “INVOLUTIONS,” activating an empty warehouse below the artist-run community project NAVEL in the same S Hope Street industrial building (and a sister project of Wendelin’s Berlin non-profit FRAGILE).

View of Jonas Wendelin, ”INVOLUTIONS,“ 2023

View of Jonas Wendelin, ”INVOLUTIONS,“ 1611 S Hope Street, Los Angeles, 2023

His current show, “INVOLUTIONS,” was perfect for the simplistic space, where his ceramic sculptures hung overhead at varying heights, with the candle-lit twinkle of a romantic séance. Walking into the darkness of “INVOLUTIONS,” the glimmering, pale-yellow light that the pieces cast from wall to wall danced before my eyes, creating a kind of optical illusion.

The thing about these rare pockets of overloaded LA nightlife is that you start out with like five things to go to – all in opposite directions – and each Uber takes at least twenty minutes on a good night, but longer with all of the art-enthused visitors clogging the freeways. You just can’t make it to everything, but in your desperate attempt to try, you end up racking up $100 worth of Ubers within a fucking hour! With dear Blaine driving us around town on this blessed Valentine’s evening, though, we promptly left Jonas’s opening to quickly swing by the rave-like afterparty-thing that was happening at a little upstairs Chinatown space. The bass was pounding, but confronted with party fog and a crowd of twenty-somethings in black-lit puffy pants and spiky hair, we took one long, knowing look at each other and headed back to the comforts of the car.

In her signature, pouty manner, Miss DeSe clutched her sparkly CELINE baguette as she cheered on Raúl de Nieves, who was crawling around the stage, revealing his pearl-studded garters.

We then went over to La Escuela in Hollywood, where artist Raúl de Nieves was DJing for the ARTnews Wet Paint party. When Blaine and I sauntered into the wood-paneled bar, we were pleased to find a scene that was the absolute polar opposite of the Y2K riff-raff we’d decided against moments before, as Raúl was blasting Barbara Streisand’s “Guilty” (1980), a duo with the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb. The sight of my very besties, some of whom I had not seen in a way-too-hot minute, including artist Ryan Trecartin, filmmaker Leilah Weinraub, and artist Jessi Stead, twirling among the well-lubricated crowd, truly made my night. When I first heard Leilah’s unmistakably high-pitched shrieking after I pinched her ass from behind, the first words out of my mouth were, “You’re probably the only actor Ryan’s ever worked with whom he didn’t need to use vocoder on during post!” She laughed and gave me her quintessentially cute little side-eye, before I grabbed her arm and led her back onto the dancefloor. As we boogied with Ryan, I suddenly realized that the dark-haired woman to his right was Rizzoli publisher Isabel Venero.

Ryan Trecartin (left), Jessie Stead (center), and Raúl de Nieves (right)

Ryan Trecartin (left), Jessie Stead (center), and Raúl de Nieves (right)

“It’s been so long since I’ve seen you,” she said to me.

“Yeah, the last time I can remember was when you, Ryan, and I were triple-kissing at the Performa party during Miami Basel!” I recalled, laughing.

The next morning, after sleeping late and waking up dying for coffee, I made my way over to the Hollywood Roosevelt, where the VIP opening of Felix – the secondary but actually way more palatable alternative to the week’s main event – was just getting underway. The fair, Raúl informed me, had been started by the principals of his gallery, Moran Moran. Sean Monahan, of K-HOLE notoriety, chatted poolside into a microphone for a radio spot on National Public Radio – at one point turning the mic to Ryan Trecartin, who blurted out that he was the founder of Tik-Tok (LOL!) – while the rest of us sucked down iced coffees in the glare of the sun, lounging around and watching Esben Weile Kjaer’s large, alien-headed, snake-shaped floaties sexily coil around the water’s surface.

Esben Weile Kjær’s inflatables in the pool of the Hollywood Roosevelt

Esben Weile Kjær’s inflatables in the pool of the Hollywood Roosevelt.

Later that night, Raul’s band, Hairbone, played the Felix VIP opening party. After yet again consuming many alcoholic bevs, Hairbone got their wildly costumed asses up on stage and proceeded to slaughter the crowd amassing around them, with Raúl screaming, “My name is Karen!” The audience’s reticence at the band’s aggressive tone was particularly amusing. Even Miss DeSe, the DJ and party promoter, was able to catch the band, despite having just landed at LAX and hustling over to West Hollywood, where she was hosting the PIN-UP magazine party at the EDITION Hotel. In her signature, pouty manner, she clutched her sparkly Celine baguette as she cheered on Raúl, who was crawling around the stage and cheekily revealing his pearl-studded garters, alongside his other front-row admirers.

After the show, a group of us went up to Raúl’s hotel room to hit the mini-bar. Perked up by a few much-needed shots, we all jaunted off to see DeSe and PIN-UP editor Felix Burrichter at EDITION, where the line to get in was mobbed (we skipped right to the front, of course). Inside, the music was so loud that no one could hear anyone, despite chatting away swimmingly for hours, but the go-go boys were bronzed and glistening (as is only right). At around one o‘clock in the morning, Ashland Mines (aka DJ Total Freedom) DM’d me out of nowhere to say he was suddenly in town and playing in some gigantic football stadium in Inglewood for the secret after-the-after-party of an Anne Imhof opening at Sprüth Magers, but my crew and I just couldn’t brave the cold – even for him!

Raúl de Nieves performs with Hairbone at the Felix VIP opening party

Raúl de Nieves performs with Hairbone at the Felix VIP opening party

I tried my best not to stay out too late, since I had to be up early on Thursday to haul my ass to Santa Monica, where Frieze was finally, actually beginning – unfortunately, at a giant airport hangar. I was set to do an interview with the New York sculptor Barry X Ball, who was being toasted with a private champagne reception to celebrate the drop of an NFT series produced in collaboration with LG. That was cute, but other than that, the fair, as is most always the case, felt like a horrific maze of consumerism from which I could not escape, and everyone I ran into – from the friendly staff at the Project Native Informant booth, where I was proud to see large-scale photos by my friends from DIS, to LA artist Joseph Geagen – seemed, like me, equal parts overwhelmed and exhausted. Having rushed straight there, and having consumed nothing by four o‘clock but several flutes of champagne from the very generous LG event, I started to wobble in my five-inch YSL mules and knew the time had come to brave the insanity of the Uber line outside. As I flipped back and forth between alarming specs of $200 rides and my texts with Blaine, who had incidentally gone to the airport’s other hangar, where a different section of the fair was being held, I said “fuck it” and made a beeline for the first overpriced pop-up I saw to buy myself a $20 sandwich.

Partying is such hard fucking work.

The author’s pumps and 90s Gaultier skirt

The author’s pumps and 90s Gaultier skirt, reflected in a mirrored pedestal at The Little House