The Cool School
Story of the Ferus Gallery and the early days of the LA art scene.
The Ferus Gallery was a contemporary art gallery operating from 1957-1966. In 1957 it was located at 736-A North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. In 1958, it was relocated across the street to 723 North La Cienega Boulevard where it remained until its closing in 1966.
The gallery was founded in 1957 by the curator Walter Hopps, the artist Edward Kienholz, and the poet Bob Alexander behind an antiques store on La Cienega Boulevard. In 1958, Kienholz left to concentrate on producing art, and his stake in the gallery was replaced by Irving Blum. Also at this time, Sayde Moss, a wealthy widow, became a silent partner and with her support the gallery moved across the street to 723 N. La Cienega Boulevard.
Up until the autumn of 1958, the gallery held twenty shows, but had made hardly any sales. Blum persuaded Hopps to reduce the number of represented artists to fourteen (seven from San Francisco and seven from Los Angeles) and transformed the financial health of the gallery.
Under the directorship of Irving Blum from 1958, the gallery exhibited both the West Coast and New York art of the period. It was the first gallery on the West Coast to devote a solo show to Andy Warhol, whom Blum had first met in New York in 1961. Blum also ventured to show other East Coast artists, including Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Frank Stella. Finish Fetish—a style that emphasized gleaming surfaces—and Light and Space—art about perception—were other Ferus-bred styles that allowed L.A. to distinguish itself from the rest of the art world. Artist Ed Ruscha has likened the gallery to a jazz catalog "where there are a lot of different voices under the same record label. Each had a very distinctive take on the world and on his work, and so that made it a very vital place to aspire to and to be."
From 1960 to 1964, art collector Marcia Simon Weisman hosted monthly proselytizing classes for novice collectors, taught by Blum and Hopps. Committed local art collectors such as Robert Rowan, Edwin Janss, Betty Asher, and author Michael Blankfort were loyal clients.
Hopps left in 1962 to become curator and, later, director of the Pasadena Art Museum. Ferus closed in 1967 when Blum sought "a financial leg up" by opening Ferus/Pace with Arne Glimcher, owner of New York's Pace Gallery. That venture lasted less than two years. Blum operated the Irving Blum Gallery until his departure for New York City in 1972 where in partnership with Joseph Helman he opened the BlumHelman Gallery; he returned full-time to Los Angeles in 1998 as a private dealer From 1965, the offices of the art magazine Artforum were situated above the gallery, before moving to New York City in 1967.