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Letters from America

Hungerford gallery owner Justin Cook heads to Los Angeles for inspiration

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Where does a gallery curator go for inspiration, and what markets are there for the artists they represent? Hungerford’s Oil gallery owner Justin Cook was recently in Los Angeles with artist Christopher Luigi, meeting clients, and reporting back to newburytoday in his ‘Letters from America’.

I HEADED down to the Broad museum in downtown LA first thing Wednesday morning to be greeted by a massive queue. After finding out that the line was approximately one hour to get in, I decided to check the more independent galleries I had heard about and come back to the Broad later.

It was a beautiful sunny LA day and as I crossed the road I was greeted by the simply breathtaking site of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. An amazing example of Deconstructivism architecture if you ever saw one, designed by Frank Gehry, with shiny angular sections all slotting into each other, reaching out to the sky like some futuristic abstract art...

I set off towards China Town to see what they had to offer and walked along the road past the local government building (for some reason, it struck me that it looked like a Scientology building) and on for about two miles, until I entered China Town and headed straight to Chung King Road (pictured above).

There were a few galleries there, including the Good Luck gallery and Coagula gallery. I preferred the Coagula and a particular artist called April Bey (pictured above), whose present exhibition features installation art, drawings and art, all created in Ghana, where she did an art residency.

I then headed out to the North Hollywood arts district about a mile southwest of the local government building. Some three miles later I found myself standing outside Hauser & Wirth, 901 East Third Street. It’s a huge building that takes up around a block in size. Hauser & Wirth represents a good selection of established artists and has galleries based in NY, LA and London. I only popped my head in the door really and had a quick look around – it looked good, but not amazing.

I then decided to walk to Boyle Heights and the Anderson Road next to the Sixth Street bridge. This was another two-mile walk or so, and then I found myself standing outside the Parrasch Heijnen Gallery. It’s a cutting-edge gallery and more to my liking. I spent some time in the gallery and then left as they were just starting a new install, one to go back to I thought. I looked at my watch and realised that time was ticking on and I had been walking for about four hours slowly being roasted in the dry desert sun that is LA.

As I walked back to the Broad it struck me that this downtown area of LA in the Boyle heights/Anderson neighbourhood had a real NY Soho feel, with lots of warehouses and rag trade distributors sited there. There was even a microbrewery setting up a new pub/bar called Dry River Brewing and I ended up having a great chat with the owner called Naga – he was totally cool.

This downtown area is coming up so fast in a few years I can see the regeneration of this area will reap big rewards. The sad and dark thing, however, is  the vast number of homeless people sleeping in tents under the concrete freeway bridges – gentrification of an area is all very well, but what are these vulnerable people going to do, as there is no safety net? I am not sure where all the developers think these poor souls are going to live or lay their head (using the word live seems wrong as these people have no life to speak of).

I walked back across the Sixth Street bridge and saw a place on the other side called the bread room. I needed to get some water and shade before I got full on sun stroke so I took a rest break, rehydrated and made my way to the Broad.

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