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.