Beverly Hills 50th Anniversary Art Show Draws Thousands

More than 230 artists participated in the Beverly Hills Art Show, which celebrated its 50th anniversary and showcased artists from around the world working in a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, jewelry, photography, printmaking and ceramics.

An estimated 20,000 attendees turned out over the course of two days, May 20-21, to the event held at Beverly Gardens Park.

The free and public community program provided an opportunity for people to absorb culture in a welcoming, accessible environment. For the artists, meanwhile, it was a chance to spread awareness about their creative endeavors.

“The goal is to sell,” fine artist Niki Sands told the Courier.

Wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt featuring Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Sands displayed her abstract and surrealist pieces in one of dozens of tents dotting the four blocks

of Beverly Gardens Park. This was her first time at the city’s biannual art show, which is held every year in the spring and fall. Sands was among 83 new artists exhibiting work in this year’s program.

For the show’s contest, a jury of eight judges critiqued artists in 11 categories. This year’s first-place winners were Benjamin Gordon (mixed media, 2D); Gunnar Turnbull (sculpture); Nick Leonoff (glass); Taman VanScoy (watercolor); Brian Blackham (painting); Elayne Bryn (digital art); Sean Hill ( jewelry); Sharon Austin (drawing and printmaking); Youngbok Park (photography); Annie Quigley (ceramics); and Isaac Anderson (mixed media, 3D).

The winners of the four specialty categories, Best of Show, Best Display of Art, Best New Artist and the Gil Borgos Originality Award, were VanScoy, James Aarons, Peyton Burnett and Richard Lee, respectively.

City Councilmembers John Mirisch and Sharona Nazarian, along with Arts and Culture and Recreation Commissioners, presented ribbons to the first place and special category winners.

The weekend-long program drew participation from 11 local Beverly Hills artists as well as a handful of international artists from Ukraine, Thailand and Mexico. For classically trained Ukrainian artist Igor Koutsenko, originally from Crimea, this was his 23rd year exhibiting in the show. Throughout the two days, his drawings and inked-in woodcuts attracted impressive crowds.

“It’s a good show,” Koutsenko told the Courier.

The price for works ran the spectrum. A small, unframed still-life painting of a flower would set one back $65. The asking price of an ambitious, wall-spanning mixed-medium work, meanwhile, was $25,000. The latter’s unlikely materials, including aluminum cans, dirt and pebbles, came together to depict a slum in South Africa.

Many people found parking spaces on the palm tree-lined Beverly Drive, then walked to the grounds, where they caught up with friends and browsed the seemingly infinite collection of pieces. They pushed strollers, and walked their labradoodles—this reporter’s companion even spotted someone who had brought a cat along.

As they took in the work, many guests offered strong opinions and criticism. As people packed a tent displaying photographs of train model figures in comical settings, scaled in a manner to make the circumstances appear lifelike, an amused man commented about a piece showing a pair of figurines skiing atop a roll of toilet paper.

“Put this in a bathroom in a ski report,” he said to his wife and two sons.

Amidst the maze of tents, there were artists conducting live demonstrations, offering glimpses into their respective creative processes. One artist, standing above her canvas, splashed her piece with speckles of white paint as if inspired by the frenetic, free-for-all techniques of expressionist Jackson Pollack. Another artist completed a plein-air painting before a crowd of admiring people passing by.

While attendees shopped and perused, others relaxed in chairs beside the park’s iconic lily pond and noshed at an outdoor-eating area. Food trucks served a variety of culinary options, including lobster, chicken wings and pizza. Kids ran around the grass, their playful shrieking mixing with the gentle sounds of lounge music soundtracking the pleasant scene.

At a children’s activities section, little ones busied themselves with jewelry-making and watercolors. Nearby, representatives of the Beverly Hills Fire Department and Just in Case BH fielded questions about their services and initiatives.

Attendee Erica Lauren of the San Fernando Valley learned about the festival during her daily commute, seeing workers erecting the tents in the park.

“As a first-time attendee to the Beverly Hills Art Show, I didn’t know what to expect—I saw the signage for it and thought, ‘Let me stop by this weekend and see,’ because I’ve been looking for art for my place,” she said. “There were cool pieces—from mixed media to ceramics—and I ended up buying a piece I’m going to frame. It’s the first piece of art I’ve ever bought, which I’m really excited about.”

The festival’s high visibility, said Dana Beesen, the city’s communications and marketing coordinator, explained why it attracts not only tourists staying at Beverly Hills hotels but residents from across the city as well.

“People come from the hotels that are in town, and people in town come out because it’s so visible,” Beesen said. “I spoke to a few artists who said there were people from all over the place.

“It’s very popular in our community as well as throughout all of Southern California,” Beesen continued. “People look forward to it all the time.”