SF’s Independent Art Fairs (in pictures)
There’s something magical about a hotel that’s been taken over by artists. Generally in hotels you walk past rooms in the night and wonder what strangers may be up to behind closed doors. At stARTup Art Fair at the Hotel Del Sol, you got to walk into any room you liked, and instead of finding a retired, vacationing couple from the midwest, you were greeted by an artist inside the little world they had just created. Entire rooms were redefined by some 60 independent artists for one weekend only. The only rule was ‘don’t put any holes in the walls’.
The guys leading stARTup fair were Ray Beldner and Steve Zavattero. And their fair was only for artists not represented by galleries, in staunch contrast to the large, traditional Art Market San Francisco just down the road at Fort Mason whose ‘About’ section starts with: “Following record breaking sales, city-wide partnerships, and attendance of over 20,000 visitors in 2014….”
By comparison the first line in stARTup Fair’s description is: “The art world is changing, and many working artists are finding themselves without a space to present their work. The core mission of stARTup Art Fair is to provide an exhibition venue for unrepresented artists — artists who may have recently lost their gallery/galleries, or artists who have never had representation.”
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One giant, international gallery driven affair, and one smaller, artist led, independent fair just down the street from one another. Let’s visit both of them shall we?
Independent Art Fair: stARTup Fair at Hotel Del Sol
The very first room I happen to walk into I found a delightful young performance artist in her underwear, and I thought, “well, this is off to a good start.” www.afterwisegallery.com
Next I was surrounded by color and a charming German accent in this room by am Stöhr. She told me to lie on the bed and look up, in order experience art a different way…so I did. Her art exists above your head and sometimes bellow your feet.
Artist Shane Gidcumb puts his art on pillows and blankets, he was right at home in this environment
Non-profit art organizations were well represented at this independent art affair, ArtSpan which is all about connecting the public to visual artists, Root Division which provides bellow market rate studio space to creatives and teaches art to children for free, and Creative Growth which serves adult artists with developmental disabilities. All were enthusiastic about this fresh approach to the art fair. Director ArtSpan Joen Madonna had this to say about stARTup Fair:
“The success of an artists-driven art fair like stARTup shows that people are ready for a new paradigm to what makes good & worthy art”
I asked her if this independent approach was positive for artists: “Although a vibrant art community encompasses all levels of art from the avant-garde experimental to the established museum institutions, I think the DIY trend is to not need a gallery to validate an artist, but for the public to connect directly and authentically to arts and artists. I’ve been to a lot of art openings and art fairs over the years, and have done my time at Basel Miami, and the stARTup Art Fair had one of the best vibes of anything I’ve experience in awhile. Showing that yet again, leave it to the artist renegades doing it their own way to innovate what a healthy art ecosystem represents, and how to provide a compelling and interesting art experience for the general public.”
ArtMRKT SF and The Renegade Parking Lot Art Fair
The traditional Art Fair at Fort Mason was large and professional as to be expected. White wall renditions of professional galleries complete with gallerists and sales people extolling the virtues of $20,000 dollar canvases. It was all very nicely done, but sterile, and business as usual.
Gallerist and curators are cool, they display and sell art well, but nothing compares to meeting the actual artist in the flesh, in front of their work, or knowing that the artists is taking home 100% of what their art sells for. Outside Fort Mason in the parking lot a small revolt had formed. The “Parking Lot Art Fair” put on by Jenny Sharaf and Emily Reynolds, was simply that, artist displaying and selling art out of their cars. Over 100 participants creating an art scene for themselves without having to spend money to do it. It will be interesting to see if this artist driven dynamic takes hold and inspires others to do something different. I for one am excited to see whats next.
Artist Mitra Fabian on her experience exhibiting at the independent stARTup Fair:
“I was at first hesitant to participate, but I am beyond pleased with having done so. I was amazed at the number of people who came through and am happy with the contacts I made. It really makes you appreciate how much work galleries have to do when they’re at these fairs — it’s really intense. And yes, I am also relieved to have sold as much work as I did; it covered all of my costs and beyond. I met some wonderful people to boot.”