It also explains why the zip codes surrounding San Jose have long been coveted as a potentially rich lode by dealers. They contain some of the wealthiest enclaves in California: Los Gatos, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton — never mind San Francisco, home to a younger generation of Silicon Valley workers who commute up and down the peninsula in company-sponsored buses. Which raises another daunting issue: how to grab the attention of people for whom work is all consuming? With few clues going in, Friedman’s strategy is to present a diverse program, rich in traditional media, but also significantly weighted toward video and new media – things that the digerati, unschooled in abstract painting or conceptual art, might grasp more easily.
Five years ago, if you’d predicted that two of America’s most prominent art galleries would be headlining an art fair in San Jose you’d have encountered skepticism. Not anymore. This week, when the Silicon Valley Contemporary art fair (April 10-13) debuts, Pace Gallery (New York, London, Beijing)and Ace Gallery (LA, Beverley Hills) will on hand. They’ll be joined by a roll call of Bay Area art institutions including: Yerba Buena Art Center, San Francisco Arts Commission, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Cantor Arts Center, Triton Museum, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and ZERO1.
There will be plenty of galleries, too: 53 of them, many highly respected and with most (but not all) arriving from outside the area. They include: ACA (New York), Bentley Gallery (Phoenix), Altman-Siegel (SF), James Harris (Seattle), Gallery 16 (SF), Peter Blake (Laguna Beach), Smith Andersen North (San Rafael), Stephen Bulger (Toronto), Caroll/Fletcher (London), Sundaram Tagore (New York), Cordeiros Galeria (Portugal) and Young Projects (LA).
Marianne Boesky (New York), Christopher Grimes (LA), Carroll/Fletcher (London), Fleisher/Ollman (Philadelphia), Honor Fraser (LA) and Postmasters (New York) are among the galleries sponsoring video projects, about which I’ll say more. Put differently, this will not be a show of the usual suspects.
If that weren’t enough, Pace, starting April 16, will test the waters with a pop-up gallery in the old Tesla Motors dealership in Menlo Park, opening with an Alexander Calder survey (to May 13) followed by New York installation artist Tara Donovan (May 22 – June 30). The gallery is also reportedly negotiating with other New York dealers who have expressed interest in sharing the 25,000 square-foot space, which will include a video screening room, library and bar. Together, these events have created some serious buzz.
The looming question, however, is whether the technology crowd is ready to embrace art. Rick Friedman, founder and president of Hamptons Expo Group, which since 2000 has operated art fairs in Houston, Aspen, Palm Springs and Bridgehampton, N.Y., is betting that it is. “I’m the poster boy for this sort of thing,” says Friedman who, before turning to art in 2000, published a group of software magazines with esoteric titles like XML Journal and C++ Report. In 2000 “I caught the [art] fever and began collecting.” He now owns “more than 200 paintings.” Based on his experience, which includes dealings with local venture capitalists and those they finance, Friedman believes others will follow. “There are a lot of people who have cashed out and made money and are willing to explore art. They’re being counseled by VCs to explore alternative investments.” How many, nobody knows. “We have high expectations that are also tempered by reality,” that being Silicon Valley’s history of reinvesting wealth into fresh start-ups, not collectible art. That may explain why the last commercial gallery of note in the immediate vicinity, DP Fong, closed years ago.
Marina Abramovic’s Mutual Wave Machine (“an interactive nuerofeedback installation”) will receive its U.S. debut. Gary Hill’s video, Depth Charge, featuring the music of guitarist Bill Frisell, will be screened, as will works by the British duo Thompson & Craighead. Additionally, the LA journalist Paul Young has curated (with sponsorship from Epson) screenings of works by seven other video artists: Jacco Olivier, Jennifer Levonian, Marco Brambilla, John Wood and Paul Harrison, Guy Ben-ner, Jeremy Blake and Kate Gilmore.
For those wanting education, SVC is larded with symposia (“Art & Technology: the Next Frontier”, “Live ‘App-ing” Demonstrations” for iPhone photography), along with discussions carrying titles like “How to Become a Proficient Collector.”
To attract nascent collectors, Friedman approached some of the area’s biggest corporations, including Cisco, Semantic, Facebook and Google, and distributed tickets. “If you’re a dealer,” he notes, “you’ve got to get in front of these people. Right now, “nobody knows anybody, so this is a real opportunity. I commend the exhibitors for being pioneers. Hopefully they’ll be rewarded.”
–DAVID M. ROTH
Silicon Valley Contemporary, April 10-13, 2014 @ San Jose McEnery Convention Center.