Swee(t)Art covers the San Francisco Fine Art Fair

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Note: This is an unusual entry for me…but then, this is the first Art Fair in SF in Ten Years, it is all unusual. I normally don’t  cover non-Swee(t)Art events. My regular tone is as a guy who makes art, loves art, and advocates  for a specific list of artists. While I do curate multiple venues in the Bay Area, I don’t really consider myself a gallerist per se, although I refer to myself as one later in this posting. My only true vocation has always been painting. -Obi. 

Last weekend was all about the Art Fair at Fort Mason. Some people went for after-opening parties Friday night. Some local gallery owners, who I like to consider friends (at least Facebook friends) had to work all damn weekend chasing what? The sale? Hopefully. Maybe something more a kin to community, or even some kind of art-zeitgeist; I think this type of fair-thing has been chasing the ghost of NY Amory show when that changed the art world, of what, 1906? Has there been a good one since? I don’t know. 

I liked it. I was feeling good. I was promoting a bunch of indie artshows that I am curating at different venues and I was out to meet people. It was Sunday morning and the Marina looked shiny under the clear sky after a freak week of May rain. I was impressed at the scope and diversity of the fair. I didn’t count them all, but off hand there was probably over a hundred participating galleries, over half of which where from California, some from England, some from NY a bunch from LA and lo and behold a few from Oakland!

This was an area called the Collector’s Lounge. I dumped a bunch of Swee(t)Art postcards here. I did see a huge spike in website hits on Monday and Tuesday after the Fair closed; A note to guerilla marketers.

I asked a bunch of peers this week about the fair and the two stand out responses were 1. “There was a lot of lobby art there.” A predominant Oakland artist said this…nope, not naming names. I am guilty of liking lobby art, because it is populist and democratic. What this artist might have said, I believe, is that it was hard to find freaky art from minds and hands doing their own thing, striking out in their own direction. There was a lot of derivative expressionist art…2. “It was just a fair.” A local Gallery Owner said this…again, not naming names. What I believe they could have been expressing is that fairs, whether they are art fairs, crafts fairs, street fairs whatever, perhaps the venue mode in general needs reexamining. There is a mall like experience of walking from one stall to the next, examining the merchandise. Is that the ideal art experience? Maybe if you are trying to sell and only trying to sell. Even so, if it is a mall, it is the best mall in the Universe! Take for instance, Svea Lin Soll, owner/operator of Swarm Gallery in Oakland. An almost minimal merchandising of paintings and drawings with only subtle color palettes: always consistent and gorgeous.

above, Joseph Smolinksi with Swarm Gallery

Jack Fischer and his wife Valerie. Jack has been a hero of edgy, relevant, often outsider art for a long time. Plying his trade from the unusually sized corner gallery at the 49 Geary. Now he has got a new space, a lot more artists and windows! Same address.

Bernardo Roman Palau, at Jack Fischer Gallery

James Westwater at Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NM

Rex Ray at Gallery 16. This is the biggest Rex Ray piece I have ever seen in person. Sumptuous work from a gallery that has an extraordinary catalog. I got a great print catalog from them, full of an amazing portfolio spectrum of artists.For free! It is all about the schwag. 

Deborah Oropallo at Gallery 16

Simon Birch at Carmichael Gallery

Seth Carmichael.

Antonio Cortez with Art Zone 461

Agelio Batle at Art Zone 461

There was a large collection of Clare Rojas paintings at Gallery Paule Anglim. I asked Alli to pick out her favorite and this was it.

Brion Nuda Rosch at Baer Ridgway

Chris Duncan at Baer Ridgway

Chandra Cerrito of Chandra Cerrito Contemporary decked out her space with the art of one artist: Jenn Shifflet. I loved it: an Oakland gallery and an Oakland artist.

I think Hilary Pecis and the whole Guerrero Gallery scene has an amazingly innovative edge right now. It feels new, it feels real, it feels street, it feels fine art.

It was interesting going from one gallery owner to the next and introducing myself and finding that the nicest, most down to earth guys are the folks I already respected the most. Michael Rosenthal is a very good example of this: friendly and warm…obviously deeply believing in the art and the artists, a nice inspiration for a young gallerist like myself.

Megan Whitmarsh expressionist embroidery is fun, stylish and rocking.

There were so many wonderful artists: names I knew, names I didn’t. The best reward, the best thing you can hope for from an art fair if you are young and broke and just love art is when you find an artist who you find an artist you love who you have never heard of before. It happened to us. Alli says “I found Alison Pebworth, so the day was a success!” It could be she is a bit more discriminating than I am.


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  • Moises Aragon

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