L.A. Art World Competes in a…Tennis Tournament?

This past Saturday, despite the threat and eventual onslaught of late-autumn rain, about 100 art-world players (tennis and otherwise) gathered at the posh and uber-private Los Angeles Tennis Club for the FRAME (French Regional American Museum Exchange) benefit tennis tournament, in an inspired partnership with LACMA’s current and soon-to-travel exhibition, “Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy.”

BACK ROW: Franklin Sirmans, Ed Schad, Claude Collins-Stracensky, Patrick Vallaincourt, Dashiell Manley. 4TH ROW: Vince Szarek, Henry Vincent, Jim Deutch, Fredreich Kunath,Stas Orlovski, Shana Lutker, Gerard O'Brien, Dan Cameron, Andy Moses, David Erikson. 3RD ROW: Jason Yates, Charlotte Eyerman, Amanda Hunt, Brian Moss, Charles Gaines, Jonmarc Edwards, David Buckingham, Jolie Godoy, Owen Kydd, Lucas Blalock, Lita Albuquerque, Jessica Trent. 2ND ROW: Angel Chen, Mary Anna Pomonis, Jody Zellen, Shamim Momin. FRONT ROW: Nikhil Murthy, Justin Stadel, Drew Heitzler, Gustavo Godoy, Karl Haendel. Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan

The partnership made sense, and not only because something like half of the works in the exhibition are on loan from institutions in the FRAME network. And not only because evening tennis is a spectacle of bodies and shadows. It also coincides with the kick-off of the months-long Ceci n'est pas ... program of city-wide events and exhibitions celebrating the love affair between Paris and Los Angeles.

Truthfully, no one knew what to expect from the mash-up of art, sport and cocktails. Would it be like The Great Gatsby, players in dress shoes with a racket in one hand and a dry martini in the other? Or would it be more like that scene in Hair when Berger shows up at Sheila’s country club?

Something about the very civilized yet bohemian society scene of artists, curators, critics, and gallerists both on the courts and in the viewing porticos and cozy clubhouse open bar truly did channel the old-school and very fashionable mode of art patronage. And the stormy skies above definitely set a certain atmosphere that the moody sensualist Caravaggio would surely have appreciated. And it turns out, there are more than a few fierce competitors in these genteel ranks.

Gerard O'Brien serving to Franklin Sirmans in the Finals. Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan

Whatever light-hearted fun players may have had in the early rounds soon gave way to the realization that some folks were deadly serious. It turns out for example, that Broad curator Ed Schad, artists Gustavo Godoy and Stas Orlovski, and curator Dan Cameron were all fairly advanced players and had come to win, with their own expensive rackets and fancy gear.

The Winners Circle: Gerard O'Brien, Fredreich Kunath, FRAME's Charlotte Eyerman, Franklin Sirmans, Charles Gaines, Lita Albuquerque, Jessica Robin Trent. Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan

But not even the rain could take the ninja-like focus off artist Charles Gaines’ face as he and his doubles partner, LACMA curator Franklin Sirmans, battled through round after round, eventually facing dealer Gerard O'Brien and artist Fredreich Kunath for the coveted medals.

In the end, O‘Brien and Kunath took the top honors. By then the audience was a little soggy and pretty toasted, too, and in the mood for a rousing medal ceremony — inside the club house, where the open bar never ended. Vive la France!