Scene and Heard in L.A.
An Eclectic Buffet For The Art Connoisseur
By Kristina Levsky
Aug 1, 2003 - 4:24:00 PM

LOS ANGELES—Fine art, an eclectic crowd and Absolute vodka mixed well at the Bergamot Station galleries on the opening night of The ABSOLUT- L.A. International Biennial Art Invitational 2003.

The International Art Invitational kicked of its five-week run with an opening reception at the Bergamot Station Galleries on Wednesday, July 9. A true mixer, it was another step in the effort to beautify our city through diversification, by bringing together the creative works of artists from all over the world.

Photo by Richard Hormaza

A buffet for the art connoisseur, with several Absolute-sponsored vodka bars in the middle, the Invitational opened with exhibitions of colorful works of more than 200 international and local artists, in over 75 galleries around the city. It began with a reception at the Bergamot Station galleries in Santa Monica, continuing throughout the week with openings in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Chinatown.

From unusual jewelry to social and political photography, to pictures of the seven dwarfs, the citys most respected galleries displayed the works of various artists from Europe, South America, Canada, Asia and the U.S.

Each work is unique in its own way. In one gallery, a painting of an Indian man with a barcode highlights the theme of oppression and materialism that has ravaged the population. Chauvinism is criticized in another work captioned "Stop Sub-Critical Experiments by U.S.A. and Russia," through its portrayal of a union of the two nations by a penis. Still, others depict the relationships between the rich and poor in modern-day society.

A huge component of the event was the panels that followed, where artists had a chance to share their visions and ideas and answer questions regarding their works.

Intrigued by the often syncretic variety of works and the forces behind the Invitational as a whole, I posed a few questions of my own to one of the events co-chairs, William Turner, to find out how the L.A. International Art Invitational came about.

The idea for an International Art Invitational began to develop in the midst of an artistic expansion and, ironically, a recession. The Santa Monica and Hammer museums had just opened in 1989 and 1990 respectively, expanding the opportunity for viewing art around the city, but doing little to create a connection between Los Angeles and the International community. An Art Fair that had been taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center had proven to be an incorrect model for creating a fertile ground for an International Art scene.

That is until gallery owners around the city decided to get together and do all of us art lovers a great service by creating an entirely different, more interesting, and certainly more convenient model.

In 1993, an Invitational including artists from all over the world, exhibiting for normal cycles of several weeks, rather than a few days, was born. This non-profit event began with one $5,000 sponsorship from Sothebys.

In 1995 Robert Berman and William Turner, owners of the galleries bearing their names, joined the committee overseeing the Invitational development as co-chairs.

Their hard work and dedication to finding the artists, sponsors and venues has come into fruition. Since its inception, the International Art Invitational has gained respect and sponsorship from more than 35 of the largest and widely known organizations and companies around California. These include The Annenberg Foundation, KCRW, Union Bank of California, Graphic Arts Council of LACMA, Jaguar, Absolute and many others.

"We are very grateful to our sponsors," emphasizes Turner, "Without whom this event would not be possible."

As a frequent patron of art galleries and lover of international influences, I too am grateful to the people who have made such an event possible.

The Los Angeles art scene boasts a healthy collection of galleries and international works, but to see such a great variety is truly a rare event, and one not to be missed.

For those interested, exhibitions will continue through August 16. For more information, check out

If there's a local event you would like to see covered, e-mail Kristina at

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