This summer, Libyan Princess Alia Al-Senussi, an active patron of the arts in London and the Middle East, and Abdullah AlTurki, an influential collector in Saudi Arabia’s contemporary art scene, took a tour of the art on offer in the great American West, beginning with studio visits (and assorted cultural diversions) in Los Angeles and moving on to Donald Judd's compound in Marfa, Texas; Roden Crater, James Turrell's epic site in Arizona; and other towering landmarks. Here, the two friends and frequent collaborators recount their journey in the first installment of their travelogue for Artspace.
Los Angeles is paradise—and Southern California is heaven on earth! Every time we come back, we ask ourselves why we don’t live here. We kicked off the weekend with a very L.A. experience: visiting Alex Israel’s studio at the Warner Bros. Studios complex. Alex is an incredibly talented artist, and such a lovely host. He showed us some of his fascinating new works—his tile pieces (which he hand-painted on the studio lot) and his self-portraits are sure to make a huge bang in his just-opened show at Stockholm's Carl Kostyál gallery.
We followed this bit of high culture with a tour of the movie sets—think Gotham City situated next-door to Wisteria Lane—and then some really high culture: shopping for cowboy boots at Boot Star on Sunset Boulevard. After all, we need to dress the part in Texas and Arizona! Thanks to Lucchese, we are suited and booted—which made quite the impression when we paid visits to our friends at Regen Projects, Redling Fine Art, Hannah Hoffman Gallery, and other stops along the way.
Our days and nights were a perfect combination of this mix: seeing art, eating delicious food, and visiting our dear friends in La La Land. Walking around the James Turrell show at LACMA with Michael Govan, the director, and the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, was a highlight. Another was a tour of MOCA with former director Jeffrey Deitch and the celebrated architect Thom Mayne. And we saw our favorite Angelenos, Cliff and Mandy Einstein, at a dinner that Ben Bourgeois and Andrew Rhoda lavishly hosted—a trip to L.A. wouldn’t be fathomable without seeing them—and fellow guest Annie Philbin, the director of the Hammer Museum, kept us on our toes with some keen political insight. Where did that old adage come from that you can’t discuss religion and politics over the dinner table? Life would be so boring if we couldn’t talk about our favorite political obsessions.
Our last afternoon was spent with LACMA contemporary art department head Franklin Sirmans, who gave us some tips on Marfa, a place he knows well from his days at the Dia Art Foundation. Our trip wouldn’t be complete without some additional Middle Easterners of course: Negar Azimi, senior editor of Bidoun, joined us for sunset cocktails, brought as a lovely surprise guest by Hammer curator Aram Moshayedi, who knew we would be delighted by a reunion.
Dinner with a fellow half-Libyan, the artist Walead Beshty, and his partner, Erica Redling of Redling Fine Art, was another treat. Walead regaled us with stories of his recent trip to Guadalajara, where he spent his time making ceramics—hopefully we'll actually get to see them one day.
To finish it all off in the most perfect way, on our morning of departure for Texas, we had breakfast with Philip Tinari, director of Beijing's Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, and his beautiful wife, Luluc Huang, Chinese VIP relations manager for Art Basel. They had come straight off a 12-hour flight from Tokyo, and we were on our way to the airport ourselves—ships passing in the night!