wHY designs indoor-outdoor art fair for inaugural Frieze Los Angeles


Opened on February 14th 2019, Frieze Los Angeles invites visitors into a series of rich and multilayered spaces, where art presentation inside the main tent integrates within Paramount Studios’ storied back lot. The new fair is immersed in its location and the city it belongs to, fusing those characteristic elements with the art-viewing experience. Working within the confines of the fair’s temporary tent structure, the design is primarily experiential – creating a sequence of environments that transport fairgoers from the moment they step out of their cars.

The entry pavilion, with two archways wrapped entirely in faux-foliage, is a nod to the famous double arches of Paramount Studio’s Gate on Hollywood’s Melrose Avenue, welcoming visitors as they make their way to the tent and signaling the immersive, indoor-outdoor experience that lies beyond. “When I think about the experience of viewing artworks, my role is really to create this beautiful set of conditions where people and art meet. It’s a lot like being a matchmaker. You’re introducing two friends – one the artist, and the other the art-lover – who didn’t know each other beforehand, and then you step into the background” says Kulapat Yantrasast, Found & Creative Director, wHY.

Within the 3800sf entry pavilion, wHY created a room paneled in blue-stained plywood, with detailing that mimics the set-building techniques of the studio’s master production designers. The space echoes the feeling of being backstage and behind-the-scenes, paying homage to the location, while creating a sense of excitement as visitors enter the main tent. Once inside, the layout encourages visitors to choose their own path, discovering and meandering between booths from galleries both established and new, organized by Frieze for balance and variation.

Within the 62,000sf main tent, there is ample space for both artworks and visitors, a key consideration in designing this inaugural iteration of the fair. Generous corridors connect three main boulevards that are wider at the tent’s entry and grow smaller towards the back of the space, forcing perspective to create a welcoming entry progression. The structure itself is constructed with opaque and translucent ceiling panels that capture LA’s ample and distinctive natural light. hroughout the amenity spaces and backlot, wHY chose furniture and fittings that would at once blend into their surroundings while maintaining an elevated look and feel.

With Paramount’s chameleon-like backlot providing 150,000sf for additional exhibits and amenities, the fair breaks the confines of the tent, moving program outside to draw on LA’s indoor/outdoor lifestyle. These spaces—which include pop-ups of cult eateries SQIRL and Roberta’s as well as retail activations from ArtBook and Frieze—are tucked within Paramount’s New York backlot, occupying the storefronts and streetscapes. These elements are nestled amongst art installations by Sarah Cain, Paul McCarthy, Barbara Kruger and others, fusing place, program and art into one immersive experience.

Tasked with bringing this latest iteration of the international fair to LA’s globally significant art community, wHY referenced its deep connection to the city and its artists, having worked on studio spaces, museums and cultural centers that bring art and people together, such as the Marciano Art Foundation, David Kordanksy Gallery and the ICA LA. This approach applies across each element of the fair, from the seamless integration of the backlot to the inclusion of greenery throughout the entry pavilion and use of materials that drive home the feeling of being ‘backstage’. Frieze LA is a space that welcomes visitors to have a meaningful connection with LA’s immense cultural offering, that has brought Frieze and the city together. Source by wHY.

  • Location: Los Angeles, USA
  • Architect: wHY
  • Client: Frieze Art Fair
  • Size: 65,800sf (tent), 150,000 (backlot)
  • Year: 2019
  • Photographs: Yoshihiro Makino, Courtesy of wHY

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