West Coast Print Fairs Deemed `Exhausting' but `Fruitful'

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES--For years, the West Coast members of the New York-oriented International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) lobbied for their own, regional showcase. But attempts during the 1990s to sponsor several iterations of a large-scale, Los Angeles-based Works On Paper Show all struggled and foundered.

Finally, two years ago, the print dealers settled on an event that seems to be working. Print Fair Week is a series of smaller shows in San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Held the last week of January through Feb. 3, this year's "week" actually lasted closer to two and began with an inaugural Seattle outing. Some 21 print dealers, including East Coasters, made the trek up and down the West Coast. For those print dealers and regional collectors, the five West Coast Fine Print Fairs offered abundant spoils.

"It's an exhausting series of shows, especially now that it's expanded to five," observed Daniel Lienau, owner of Annex Galleries in Santa Rosa, Calif. "The turnout has been fantastic. Starting in Seattle, it was jammed from the moment the show opened to the moment it closed. In San Diego, we did very well. In general, I like these little shows without backboards. Collectors are forced to look through the bins at all the prints--and for dealers, it's a lot cheaper to produce [a booth]."

For attendees--many of them serious print collectors--the intimate shows gave them a chance to actually handle and closely examine the fine prints they were interested in. As an added benefit, the shows' public hours were free of charge (though preview benefits were held in several of the venues) since the art dealers themselves just divvied up the room costs.

"The scale of this show is more agreeable than most art fairs since it isn't so overwhelmingly large," observed Jonathan Greenberg, print specialist at Sothebys.com, who came from New York to attend the Los Angeles Fine Print Fair Feb. 3. "Anyone who is a collector was able to get the attention of the dealers and vice-versa. And what really brought me out here was that the selection of dealers is very strong."

The gallery owners and private dealers who participated in the shows specialize in a wide and eclectic range of works on paper, from etchings, lithographs, drawings, sketches, illustrated books, photographs, watercolors and woodblock prints to modern limited editions. The art works cumulatively covered 500 years, ranging from 16th-century European etchings and 17th-century Ukiyo-e Japanese prints to Abstract Expressionist and cutting edge contemporary lithographs. …