Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bay Area Gallerists in San Francisco Magazine

This month's San Francisco Magazine has a gorgeous cover story on young SF gallerists including some good friends and former classmates of mine. I am delighted to see these talented entrepreneurs get some press (and confess to a twinge of jealousy at the super-glam photo spreads featuring Jessica Silverman and Joyce Grimm).

Despite its deserving and photogenic subjects, I thought the story lacked depth or insight. The lead asks, "Can a handful of renegade gallerists get the art world to notice SF?" I would argue that 1) this question gets asked every 5 years, 2) each time a group of young entrepreneurs is trotted out as evidence that SF is finally getting its act together and supporting local talent financially, and 3) by the next time the question gets asked, 5 years later, half or more of the spaces covered on the last go-round have had to close or move away to stay afloat. For every Ratio3, there is a Lisa Dent Gallery (closed despite having broken national talents including Hank Willis Thomas and Ala Ebtekar) and a Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery (moved to greener pastures in Los Angeles).

That's not to begrudge anyone his or her success. Ratio3's Chris Perez has worked very hard to promote his artists nationally and to maintain his relationships beyond the Bay Area. All of the gallerists profiled are unquestionably talented, and all have the drive to make it. So do a lot of gallerists not profiled here: Eleanor Harwood, Kimberly Johansson, Kent Baer and Eli Ridgway, and Svea Lin Vezzone, to name just a few.

The article does discuss Bay Area collectors' notorious lack of awareness of the great art being made and shown in their own backyard. This has historically been the thorn in the side of all great galleries here, including longer-established spaces like Catharine Clark Gallery and Frey Norris, who show the same level of innovative, international talent as the galleries profiled by SF Magazine. Rather than propose solutions, the article glosses over this reality, essentially claiming that until the new crop of gallerists turned up, there was really nothing interesting happening here.

Lots of us would beg to differ, even as we celebrate this latest crop of art entrepreneurs.

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