Paris Photo Los Angeles.
Paris Photo Los Angeles.

Los Angeles may always seem to lag a little bit behind New York in art world relevance, but when they do put on a show, Angelenos surely know how to upstage their East Coast rival. Case in point: Paris Photo Los Angeles, the famed Paris-based annual photography fair, this year held on the spectacular Paramount Pictures Studios New York backlot. The irony of staging a Paris-based fair in L.A. against New York scenery wasn’t lost on some of the fair’s visitors (including celebrities Orlando Bloom, Jodie Foster, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt, and publisher Benedikt Taschen) who could be seen stepping from Upper to Lower East Side in less than a minute, champagne glass in hand. But there was plenty to see beyond the peculiar location for the over 16,000 visitors who attended the fair over the course of four days. The 81 exhibitors from 18 countries showed many great classics, such as work by Guy Bourdin (Louise Alexander Gallery), Helmut Newton, and Herb Ritts (Hamiltons Gallery), as well as rare early prints by African masters Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta (André Magnin). More contemporary offerings included work by Viviane Sassen, Pieter Hugo, and Daniel Audé at the South Africa-based Stevenson Gallery, and work by Xavier Veilhan, including a self-portrait from 2002 showing the artist in a white bodysuit complete with protruding genitalia, stood out at South Korea’s 313 Art Project.

On a subtler note, there were smaller, curated selections, such as “Troubled Gender,” a show put together by the Paris-based Galerie Christophe Gaillard that brought together work by, among others, Pierre Molinier and Michel Journiac, who in another rare 1974 self-portrait can be seen in full drag sitting on a motorcycle. The real crowd-pleaser turned out to be “UNEDITED!,” a stunning, and sometimes disturbing show of grisly black-and-white photographs selected from the LAPD forensic photo archives, from the 1920s to the ’70s, documenting both minor and major misdemeanors by the likes of Miles Davis and Charles Manson, as well as those of countless unknowns.

Paris Photo L.A.’s undeniable success seems to inspire others as well: last week its sister fair, the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain, or FIAC in short, announced that it will join forces next year. For spoiled New Yorkers that means the competition is only going to get fiercer.