Can San Francisco support three art fairs – all of them on the same four-day weekend, May 19-22? Promoters are betting that it can. Rick Friedman, president of Hamptons Expo Group, which last year produced the San Francisco Fine Arts Fair (SFFAF) at Fort Mason, is back for a second turn with a group of local, out-of-state and international galleries. So, too, are his former top executives, Max Fishko and Jeffrey Wainhouse. With support from a group of dealers who were dissatisfied with SFFAF’s performance last year, the Brooklyn-based team created a competing fair, artMRKT, at the Concourse Exhibition Center, 7th & Brannan. If that weren’t enough, a third event, ArtPadSF, funded by Joie de Vivre hotel chain founder, Chip Conley, will set up at the rock ‘n roll-storied Phoenix Hotel, providing an ultra-hip venue for Bay Area dealers who represent emerging artists.
Based on what happened last year we think there is a big enough base,” says Wainhouse on behalf of artMRKT. “We got a good response and we decided to do something else to continue and make it better.” His strategy: “create more collectors by bringing in more good galleries and by creating diversity.” “Our model,” adds his partner, Fishko, “is to go into the community and be an effective organizer.” Fishko, whose grandmother started Forum Gallery in New York in 1961, and whose connections to Bay Area dealers run deep, used his knowledge and experience to convince a number of former SFFAF exhibitors to switch sides. “He knows the business very, very well. He’s really the one who put his shoe leather into the last fair,” says Trish Bransten, president of the San Francisco Art Dealers Association (SFADA) and co-director of the Rena Bransten Gallery.
seb hamamjian says
I was just forwarded this blog and interestingly enough I have not written in…it wasn’t me. The comment I supposedly wrote wouldn’t have been my first pick for complaints although it would have been nice to see current, actual images of the fair fronts for all three fairs.
I don’t find what you wrote particularly biased but I’m disappointed at how dealers and writers alike minimize the fact that Fishko and Wainhouse started their enterprise from their experience working with Friedman. We’ve all been critical of our bosses before (and could certainly do a much better job than them) but in good conscience, do we split and try to put them out of business? Trashing Rick Friedman’s ability to do fairs repeatedly, going to every town Friedman is doing fairs in and competing head on is obnoxious. Evidently our claim under the veil of “the arts” to be sensitive and honorable is a myth, demonstrating clear similarities between it an wall street. Shouldn’t we set a better example?
No doubt a few questionable dealers were slipped in last years fair in spite of the vetting done by Catharine Clark and Michael Hackett…it certainly had it’s weak links. It seems though that the two defectors have learned how critical this is in paying the bills, especially in the early years of a start-up. Yes both fairs this year offered booths to some weaker dealers. Strike that one up to the fact that competition was brutal. Thankfully, next year there will be a more even playing field as Friedman, with the help of some honorable hard workers, has clearly shown that he can orchestrate a respectable fair after all.
Seb Hamamjian says
I have to say your editorial seems to be SLIGHTY skewed to the fair at the Concourse. I also question your picture depicting the venue since everyone I saw enter must have used the back door. I recall entering through a plastic/canvas temporary structure to enter the fair. I wonder if I went to the correct fair?
David Roth says
Thanks for writing. I worked hard to provide a balanced account, so I’m curious about where, exactly, you see bias in this story. -DR
Nice to see some pre-show coverage, thanks! We’re excited to participate (@art-Mrkt) and the prospect of 3 fairs. Preview our offerings at the link.
deb belt says
Great coverage. Thanks for the news.