Aaron Rose's Fire Sale

Robin Fleming

A fence covered with collectible art at Aaron Rose's Fire Sale at the Known Gallery in Los Angeles.

It's not unusual to see a line around the block on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, Calif., and it typically heralds a much anticipated shoe release or a coveted hipster collaboration. However this past weekend the line, hundreds deep, was for a garage sale, and more absurd than that -- the garage sale was held in an art gallery. However, this was no typical pile of junk and this gallery's not steeped in highbrow art credentials, but rather a bastion for street culture.

The Aaron Rose Fire Sale at Known Gallery brought out the crowds long before the doors were scheduled to open. According to legendary pro skater Eric Dressen, who works at Will Rise Tattoo next door to Known Gallery, "Kids started lining up around 4 p.m., and they just keep coming." Savvy collectors were hoping to score, as Aaron Rose's credentials speak volumes about the type of artifacts that were offered up at the sale.

Originally from Woodland Hills, Calif., influenced by the graphics on punk rock album covers, graffiti and skateboard decks, Rose founded Alleged Gallery in New York's Lower East Side in 1992, helping to launch the art careers of Barry McGee, Mark Gonzales and Ed Templeton among many others. He is a skateboarder, a musician, an artist in his own right, a publisher, a filmmaker and an independent curator (Rose also co-curating the MOCA's Art In The Streets exhibit with Jeffrey Deitch). Rose's Fire Sale collection of castaways clearly had the potential of being deemed treasures by those lined up along Fairfax Avenue.

Most collectors are reticent to let go of even one item, but not Rose. "A few months ago my wife and I were in my storage space and she noticed all these boxes of like 300-400 blank white VHS tapes. She was like, "Why the hell are you storing these?" It got me thinking about all the other things that I had in there and how it was totally ridiculous that I'm paying to keep it all. I've spent upwards of $50,000 over the last ten years and I go there once a year, usually just to throw more stuff in. Right around the same time Casey from Known Gallery asked if I wanted to curate a show there. Some kind of synapse happened and the idea for the fire sale came about. The next thing I knew everything was on a truck going to Fairfax!"

Owner Casey Zoltan, nor his staff at Known Gallery, could have suspected the sheer volume of the items. Dozens of boards and pieces of original art lined the walls on all sides. Tables threatened to buckle under the weight of stacks of out-of-print zines, along with an entangled mess of vintage headphones and the aforementioned blank VHS tapes, which were selling for a quarter a piece. Skate videos on VHS, stacks of out of print CDs, limited edition numbered prints and one-off drawings were snatched up by enthusiastic collectors. The original screens from "Beautiful Losers" and Mark Gonzales's "Priests" exhibits leaned up against the wall. On another row of folding tables were photographic prints by Tobin Yelland, Mofo and many other notable photographers, encapsulating the history of skateboarding from the late eighties through the present.

Robin Fleming

Vintage Big Brothers anyone?

The soundtrack to the visual cacophony was none other than famed Bones Brigadier come musician Tommy Guerrero, legendary skater and guitar player Ray Barbee, Beastie Boys collaborators Money Mark on keyboards and Fredo Ortiz on drums. Laying down heavy grooves to keep the frenzy manageable, Guerrero and the band played an amazing three-hour set.

Within hours entire rows of posters and various art had been claimed and mysteriously the empty spaces were refilled by a seemingly endless supply. Known's Staci Gabrielli stated, "Aaron has so much art and memorabilia, and a lot is still in the container. He'll be restocking as much as he can for as long as he can, so we are hoping it just keeps on keeping on... I'm going to go ahead and say that at least thousand people came through. That line was solid from 6-11 inside and out."

Notable shoppers and spectators included curator Jeffrey Deitch, filmmaker Harmony Korine, photographers Rick Kosick and Tobin Yelland, Moby, skaters Natas Kaupas, Ed Templeton, Alex Olson and many others, each with a pile or two of items they just scored.

The fire sale's not just an opportunity for Rose to unload a heavy legacy of collecting, "We've been trying to raise money for Make Something!! An education project that I do with some friends to teach creativity to teenagers. The high school art education situation is a total mess in California. We are trying to become a non-profit and the legal expenses are gnarly. Donating all the proceeds to the school is going to help this project immensely."

There's plenty of time left to grab a piece of the '90s and contribute your dollars to future generations of artists. The Aaron Rose Fire Sale at Known Gallery continues through July 21, with new pieces being added daily. For details go to www.knowngallery.com.

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