The L.A. Store Where Sex Toys Meet Doorknobs
Gallerist Benjamin Trigano's newest venture is an art space that doubles as a shop for eccentric design objects.
By Sarah Firshein
Portrait by Alain Mitchell
January 05, 2018
Trigano at M+B Gallery in Los Angeles.
What do sex toys, doorknobs, and silver cutlery have in common? You’ll find them all at the Annex, a hybrid store/gallery in West Hollywood, when it opens next month. A collection of unexpected side projects by a coterie of artists known more for their ties to the contemporary art world than the production of housewares, the new space is the brainchild of French-born L.A. gallerist Benjamin Trigano, who developed the concept with his friend Jay Ezra Nayssan, another West Coast art-world figure.
“It’s going to feel kind of like your rich, eccentric uncle’s house—the guy who’s traveled all around the world and picked up amazing objects,” says Trigano of letting artists flex previously unflexed muscles and experiment with new forms. He’s no stranger to thinking outside the box: Trigano is also the cofounder of Mama Shelter, the funky boutique hotel chain that launched in Paris before expanding to French cities such as Lyon and Marseille and international locations including Rio, L.A., and, soon, Prague.
Always adept at juggling multiple balls, Trigano has also revamped his photography gallery, M+B Photo, recasting it as a temple to social documentary in a gleaming new space in Hollywood. First on view is Hugh Holland’s black-and-white skateboarding photos from the 1970s; a survey of iconic marijuana grower James Goodwin’s 50-year career will follow.
“With Mama Shelter, we tried to break the code—it’s all about cool, fun, and happiness,” he says. “In the gallery world, we’ve taken the same approach—we make people feel at home and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Life is too short.”
Sayre Gomez exhibition at the Ghebaly Gallery (Photo: Jeff McLane, courtesy Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles).
Benjamin Trigano’s guide to L.A.
“One thing I love about L.A. is the flea market scene; there’s one at Pasadena City College, another in Long Beach, and so on. You have furniture, you have art, you have ceramics. It’s like Christmas morning. I go there every Sunday and buy a ton for my house—like, eighty percent of my house comes from flea markets. Recently, I bought a bunch of vintage wall bottle openers.”
“Kelly dyes and cuts old T-shirts. Some tees make you look like you stole your grandfather’s; these, however, make you feel like a movie star. You wear them and you feel like a queen.”
“My friend François Ghebaly has one of the best art galleries in the city—it’s a huge space downtown. He takes a lot of risks, which is rare for up-and-coming galleries. He doesn’t recycle other artists who are in shows in New York. He does what he wants to do, which I really respect.”
Kelly Cole jeans. (Photo: courtesy Kelly Cole).
“The owner, Jonathan Brown, started out as a bookseller—offering vintage books and things like this—and now he’s active on the secondary market, meaning he does a lot of resale of art from collectors. It’s a nice mix. You’ll find some old Polaroids from Jean-Michel Basquiat, then you’ll find a little drawing from Cy Twombly, and then you’ll find something from a young artist. It’s also a cool space—not a traditional gallery space, but a space for art.”
The Huntington Gardens
“I love landscape design; that’s one of the reasons why I’m in L.A.—the nature thing. And here there’s a Japanese garden, there’s a desert garden, there’s a rose garden, and it’s really something that you don’t see anywhere else. There are some nice botanical gardens in a lot of places around the world, but this one is exceptional. It’s a break from the craziness of the city.”
The Huntington Gardens (Photo: courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens).
Sunset Tower Hotel
“It’s the one place in L.A. where you feel like an adult. Every other place you go you see people in shorts and flip-flops. The décor really makes the place magical, and the lighting is fantastic—it’s impeccable. It’s casual but it’s chic and it makes everybody feel comfortable, which I love.”
Smoke House Restaurant
“This is a vintage place from the 1940s—they shot a scene for La La Land here. It’s stunning—tons of wood, great light—and it’s really different from all of L.A.’s hipster-y places. I wish there were more places like this. The food is average, but on the weekends they have local bands—basically old guys coming to jam and sing and have a good time—and it’s a lot of fun.”
Read on for the essential guide to L.A.