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Frieze Los Angeles 2023

Art Production Fund is ‘Now Playing’ at Frieze Los Angeles

Casey Fremont discusses APF’s Frieze Projects program, relocating to L.A. and the organisation’s next chapter

BY Jennifer Piejko in Frieze Los Angeles , Frieze Week Magazine , Interviews | 10 FEB 23

Bringing art outside museums, private collections and galleries, and often, quite simply, outside: that’s the mission of the nonprofit organisation Art Production Fund (APF). Founded by Yvonne Force Villareal and Doreen Remen in New York in 2000, for more than two decades APF has been bringing big, bold and strikingly recognisable public art to life. Think of Zoe Buckman’s Champ (2018–19), a four-story-high neon uterus with boxing gloves for ovaries, that loomed above the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood. The artist’s first major public work has a fresh poignancy among a new wave of assaults on women’s reproductive rights.

Casey Fremont. Photograph: Kovi Konowiecki

‘The goal is always for it to be standalone within a public space,’ explains Casey Fremont, Art Production Fund’s current Executive Director. Speaking from her new home in Beverly Hills, she underscores the APF’s commitment to making artwork truly accessible to a diverse public. ‘We gravitate toward projects that are accessible on many different levels to many different people, and that don’t require an art-historical background.’ She cites Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains (2016–2021), precarious towering stacks of fluorescent-hued rocks in the endless desert a few miles south of the Las Vegas Strip, as an example. ‘When you see Seven Magic Mountains in person, you view the surrounding natural landscape in a whole different way. Anyone can experience that.’

Though she grew up immersed in the art world – ‘My dad worked for Andy Warhol and my mother worked in galleries, so I was always exposed to art and artists,’ she notes – Fremont was not always a passionate lover of art. ‘I resisted art and going to museums – I hated that my parents dragged me.’ It was only when Fremont got older, she notes, laughing, ‘I learned that I actually did like art. I wasn’t as rebellious as I thought I was!’

Ugo Rondinone, Seven Magic Mountains, 2016–21. Courtesy: Art Production Fund; photograph: Gianfranco Gorgoni

Fremont began her story at APF as a summer intern while she was a student in Boston, joining as a full-time staff member in 2004. ‘I loved what Doreen and Yvonne were doing, and I loved working with them. It was really a dream job. The timing aligned perfectly – they were hiring someone, and I graduated college a year early and was available, so I moved back to New York. It felt like it was meant to be.’ She has spent her entire professional life at the organisation, and in 2017 took over the leadership of APF, working alongside the Director of Operations, Kathleen Lynch. 

During this time, Instagram has reshaped the landscape of public engagement with art, and some APF projects have become the sort of pilgrimage sites that it was made for. Take Elmgreen & Dragset’s Prada Marfa (2005–ongoing), a decidedly contraband outpost of the Italian luxury brand in lonely Valentine, Texas, forever sparsely stocked with 2005 accessories, and never open for business. ‘Prada Marfa opened before Instagram,’ Fremont notes, ‘but now it’s become such a social media sensation. It’s been interesting seeing how it has found its way into pop culture.’ (A sign for the ‘store’ was prominently featured in the home of a character in the TV show Gossip Girl [2007–12]). ‘That’s probably why,’ she continues, ‘in the social media age, these projects have continued to be successful and are attractive to people – they’re visually striking and certainly photogenic, but also thought-provoking.’

Zoe Buckman, Champ, 2018–19. Courtesy: Art Production Fund; photograph: Veli-Matti Hoikka

With Fremont’s relocation to LA in 2020, APF entered a new chapter. While projects in New York are continuing –with Art in Focus, their ongoing program of art shown in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, as well as Art Sundae, their programme which pairs artists with kids to create public projects – Fremont is also developing an as-yet-unannounced project on an LA museum campus. Meanwhile, at Frieze, APF is presenting new commissions around the fair site by Jose Dávila, Alake Shilling and Jennifer West, as well as a collaboration with Ruben Ochoa. ‘We’re learning about and navigating the city,’ Fremont says of the APF’s plans for her new hometown, ‘identifying spaces that make sense. It’s quite different from New York in the way that public art fits into the landscape, so we are working on how best to integrate.’

While their geographic footprint expands, Fremont isn’t fixated on growth at all costs. ‘We’ve always been a small organisation – I don’t know if bigger is better necessarily – but we want to continue with these large-scale, long-term projects when the right ones come around.’ The challenge in bringing artists’ dreams into reality is part of the thrill. ‘Everyone always feels impossible at the start,’ she reflects. ‘And then seeing them realised is so exciting. There are moments when you’re in front of a sculpture, and it’s almost surreal because you’ve seen it on paper and talked about it for years.’

This article first appeared in Frieze Week, February 2023 under the headline 'Coast to Coast'

To learn more about Art Production Fund’s ‘Now Playing’ , click here

Main image: Elmgreen & Dragset, Prada Marfa, 2005–ongoing. Courtesy: Art Production Fund; photograph: Lizette Kabré

Jennifer Piejko is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles.