Taking a Peek at the Way Our Neighbors Celebrate the Visual Arts

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Signe Mayfield, Kathyrn Funk and Kenna Moser at artMRKTSANFRANCISCO

What better excuse to take Artshift, San Jose to San Francisco, than three art fairs on one weekend?  What is an art fair anyway?  Who will be there?  How will our Silicon Valley artists be seen? Kathryn Funk, Artshift’s Editor, and I headed up the peninsula with a lot of sweaters and coats only to discover San Francisco was sunny and warm. Beautiful!  Our first stop – the artMRKTSANFRANCISCO – a “contemporary and modern” art fair in the Concourse Exhibition Center, at 7th and Brannon.

The artMRKT production was a pretty professional affair. Like many a convention, vendors  – galleries in this case – set up their displays in temporary booths.  Sixty seven sites provided a wide range of well-presented art, some of it very elegantly and some in salon-style, with dealers succumbing to the irresistible desire to cram as much art as possible into a small space.  The range of bars and food options, not available at the other fairs, were welcome to foot weary viewers.

Dionece Sandoval of San Jose’s  Zero1 Festival and Kathryn Funk confer on the scene at artMRKT.

At artMRKT: The work of Inez Storer, always popular with ARTSHIFT San Jose viewers.

Tent Dresses by Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, at artMRKT

At artMRKT, we ran into Signe Mayfield and Kenna Moser, Beverly Rayner and Marc de Stout, and ably representing Silicon Valley in the San Jose ICA booth were Director, Cathy Kimball and the ICA Print Center’s, Fanny Retsek.  For Zero1, Dionece Sandoval was holding forth.   Artshift readers would have applauded the great prints in the ICA booth and Tony May’s paintings. Also seen were some great photos by Jo Whaley, the Inez Storer paintings we love, and a wonderful fold-out codex, The Enlightened Savage’s Guide to Economic Theory, by Enrique Chagoya.  In front of the main entrance models showed off the tent dresses of Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao.

At ARTpad, Andrea Borsuk and Victoria May have a laugh over dancing grass clods.


Kathryn Funk  meets a new froggy friend in the patio at ARTpad.

ARTpad, had a great gimmick, which was surprisingly successful: galleries set up their shows in the rooms of an old-style two-level motel at Eddy and Larkin, a spicy section of downtown San Francisco, where a nearby street fair was also packing in the crowds.  In these events, galleries from as far away Los Angeles, New York and Europe are represented alongside private galleries and non-profits from the Bay Area.  Some dealers, like Paule Anglim had shows at two or all three sites.  We saw friends from Santa Cruz — Victoria May and Andrea Borsuk– and enjoyed a religious tattoo contraption by Chris Eckert in the Michael Rosenthal Gallery room.

Michael Rosenthal and gallery visitor enjoy Chris Eckert’s kinetic art which applies a random religious tattoo to the arm of willing participants.

The longer-established SFFineArtFair at Fort Mason had the greatest number of sites to visit and some specially curated themes in non-commercial installation spaces.  The Homage to Duchamp was a special installation that included a lovely romantic piece by Tessie Sharaga, The Seduction of Duchamp. San Jose’s longtime friend, Walter Bischoff was holding forth in his booth, on his way to promote an exhibition of his German stable of artists in Southern California.  Stan Welsh’s ceramic dunce head stood out, crying, “What’s this all about?” David Middlebrook was well represented throughout the concourse. We ran into the artist himself, on hands and knees, doing some repairs and installing extra anchors to his large work Dogon, which had blown over in high winds at the outside entrance to the Fort Mason pier.

At the SFFineArtsFair, Tessie Sharaga’s tribute to Duchamp was covered with vestiges of Neruda poetry and Duchamp’s romance with Brazilian, Maria Martins.

Stan Welsh’s Dunce reminded me of a politician looking for the right words to praise an art fair.

There was something quintessentially San Francisco in the latter two fairs that embodied an edgy, rough and tumble, slightly out of control art party, all of which is probably medicine for those of us who take our art too seriously. Throughout the experience, I marveled at how many galleries could promote so much slick, gauche, inauthentic stuff with a straight face.  Kathryn and I indulged ourselves by making a bee line to what, in our seasoned opinions, was the “good stuff.”  In between tons of crass, overblown and superficial work, we found a lot to enjoy, savored the blue chip art and saw some remarkable new things, and generally enjoyed the carnival atmosphere that grew as the day progressed.  Our South Bay art community showed very well, and we enjoyed schmoozing with our Artshift, San Jose friends while checking it all out.

We celebrated the end of the day with cocktails and a BBQ hosted by San Jose artist Marta Thoma and her husband David, on their yacht moored at Fort Mason for the event.



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