Show-Stopping Chris Burden Installation Offers a Respite from the Bustle of Frieze

Located at the entrance of one wing at this year’s Frieze Los Angeles is a rare moment of respite amid the chaos of the fair: Chris Burden’s installation Dreamer’s Folly. In a twist, this serene piece comes courtesy of mega-gallery Gagosian, whose presentations tend to be big and loud.

The monumental structure is made of three found 19th-century cast-iron gazebos that Burden connected to create an architectural element all its own. To them he added ethereal lace fabric with a “tree of life” design that hangs between the columns. The work is meant to mimic an English garden and debuted at Gagosian’s Rome space in 2010, the year of its creation. The work has not been exhibited since then; this showing marks its U.S. debut.

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By the end of the fair’s VIP preview, the work had sold to a European institution. The gallery declined to give a price range for the work, which is among the last remaining major installations held by the artist’s estate.

Deborah McLeod, a Gagosian senior director who runs its West Coast outpost, said that the gallery wanted to present something different for its booth at Frieze, which this year takes place in a custom-built tent across from the Beverly Hilton: “We are the longtime gallery of Beverly Hills. We didn’t need to bring our wares to the fair. We wanted to make a major statement.”

The piece is also a homecoming of sorts. Burden, who died at 69 in 2015, was long based in Los Angeles and was the first artist to be represented by Larry Gagosian, who established his gallery in the city in 1978. This month, the gallery will also publish Poetic Practical: The Unrealized Work of Chris Burden, a book about the many installations that Burden did not live to see be built.

The columns were sourced by the late artist from Jeff Levine, who also worked with Burden to source the lampposts that make up his iconic 2008 installation Urban Light, which is permanently installed outside of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Like Urban Light, Dreamer’s Folly is an installation work that is meant to be interacted with. Visitors can walk through it and feel a moment of clarity during the bustling fair, which runs through Sunday.

“It’s really a remedy for the anxiety of the fair,” McLeod said. “You step in and immediately feel relaxed. It’s a place to gather or be alone. He was truly ahead of his time in bringing people together—through civic and social engagement—to heal through art.”


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