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Yesterday was another busy news day in California.
A historically wet winter helped officially end a more than seven-year drought, and fallout from the college admissions fraud investigation continued to spread: Students spurned by universities allegedly involved have begun to sue, saying they unwittingly participated in a process rigged against them.
But today, we wanted to dig into the Los Angeles contemporary art scene. Jason Farago, a critic for The New York Times, recently made his way west for a piece exploring L.A.’s place in a global art ecosystem. He wrote about how he approached an expansive landscape:
It’s almost a rite of passage for a New York Times art critic to be sent to Los Angeles to take the temperature of the city’s museums and galleries, and to pronounce whether the second-largest city in America has “caught up” to our hometown. As long ago as 1956, one of my predecessors wrote that “spectacular myths hover with the smog over Los Angeles obscuring the considerable progress this city has made in terms of the arts during the last few years.”
So when my editor and I sat down to plan my recent story on contemporary art in Los Angeles, timed to the West Coast debut of London’s Frieze Art Fair, we set ourselves some ground rules. No clichés of L.A. as a dream factory of endless sunny days. No cooing over allegedly cheaper rent, which has become a myth of its own. Even the go-to jokes about traffic no longer made sense now that the New York subway has buckled into chronic dysfunction.
Over a week in Los Angeles — plus a few days in Palm Springs, scoping out the sculpture of the Desert X biennial — my priority was to assess the city on its own terms. I visited just about every museum and gallery from Brentwood to Boyle Heights.
I had coffees with museum directors and beers with recent M.F.A.s, whose local concerns dovetailed with global artistic ambitions. Plunked in the middle of it all were two new art fairs — Frieze, held on the Paramount backlot, and Felix, staged in the guest rooms and cabanas of a Hollywood hotel — that were the first to draw a global audience to Los Angeles after years of false starts. (My colleague Jori Finkel had a report from the fairs.)
Surveying any city’s art scene, let alone one as diverse as L.A.’s, is a game of omissions. With more space I’d have covered stalwart galleries like Regen Projects, in Hollywood; newer ones like Château Shatto, downtown; and nonprofits like Art + Practice, Mark Bradford’s space in South L.A.
The city’s boosters want critics to tell you that Los Angeles is now the center of the contemporary art scene. But the truth is that no single city can lead the way in producing the art of our time. Los Angeles, like every large city, is now a constituent of a global art system, where none of us is insulated from the flows of money and images. That may not be a satisfying conclusion, but at least it gives us the space to understand this wonderful city as it really is.
Here’s what else we’re following
(We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times stories, but we’d also encourage you to support local news if you can.)
• Who deserves Pacific Gas & Electric’s assets: Employees seeking bonuses or wildfire victims? It’s a question complicated by the typical corporate bankruptcy process, which often leaves some parties at a big disadvantage. [The New York Times]
• Amid mounting controversies and a criminal investigation, two top Facebook executives are leaving, including Chris Cox, who is a member of Mark Zuckerberg’s inner circle. [The New York Times]
• Still, Facebook’s daylong malfunction this week was a reminder of how many lives the company touches on a daily basis, and of the fragility of the internet. [The New York Times]
• A new Stanford study looked at 100 million traffic stops. It found that black and Latino drivers were stopped more often based on less evidence. [NBC News]
• After a 22nd horse died since Dec. 26, officials at Santa Anita Park banned drugs and whips. The spike in fatalities highlights horse racing’s lack of meaningful oversight, and the park’s owners said leaders needed to do better if they want the sport to survive. [The New York Times]
• U.S.C. has in recent decades tried hard to overcome its reputation as a school for wealthy kids, investing in a strong athletic program and high-profile academics. But a spate of leadership failures and scandals — and now, its place in the F.B.I.’s college admissions investigation — have left Trojan family members wondering about the school’s future. [The New York Times]
• Near the end of a weird week for Tesla, Elon Musk unveiled the company’s latest Model Y, a “baby S.U.V.” Yes, that means Tesla has models S, 3, X and Y, and yes, that was intentional. (Ford holds the trademark for “Model E.”) [Wired]
• Each tech wave has been fueled by so-called mafias — cohorts of former colleagues who support one another’s work and fund one another’s projects. So what will a future built by Airbnb and Uber mafias look like? And who will be excluded? [The New York Times]
• A photojournalist who’s followed Jordan Bell through his rookie season talked with the Warriors big man about some of the moments he captured in this neat visual project. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
• Everything you ever wanted to know about why Sacramento has so many orange trees. (A perfect Mediterranean climate helps a lot. Also you can pick your neighbor’s fruit if it’s hanging over into your yard, but you should probably ask first, just in case.) [The Sacramento Bee]
And Finally …
If you live in San Diego, consider us jealous. Not only can you make a (relatively) quick trip to check out Estacion Federal — the hip Tijuana commons its developer recently described as “part artistic community, part commuter waypoint and part gastro-utopia” — but you’re also in a good position to check out El Jardín. That’s Tejal Rao’s recommendation this week:
I’ve been spending time in San Diego lately, and reviewed one of the standouts for this week’s Food section: El Jardín, which opened last year in a new mixed-use development on a former Navy training base. And the chef, Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, is a local, a border kid who grew up splitting her time between Mexico and the United States.
Her menu celebrates the range, sophistication and diversity of Mexican cuisine, bringing together dishes that don’t usually live under the same roof, like giant Sonoran hot dogs, Yucatecan-style octopus cooked with sour oranges, and the fava-bean-filled tlacoyos of Mexico City.
California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.