Initially, there were grumblings about the pay-to-play aspect, but they quickly faded. The consensus that emerged was: this is a well-run, well-curated event, one that for a number of artists, turned out to be profitable, both in sales made and in curator/collector connections established. For visitors, the draw was the ability to meet and converse with artists in an intimate environment – two things not possible at convention hall/booth fairs. As such, the sTARTup fair filled the void left by the 2013 departure of ArtPad, the hotel fair/pool party that laid the template for such events in SF. Were there awkward moments? Yes, there were. Not all artists were adept at speaking about their work; some arrived woefully unprepared and would have been better served by galleries at conventional art fairs. Others operated like seasoned pros and reaped the benefits.
Last year’s Parking Lot Art Fair was a guerilla event. It went up before dawn and was taken down before noon; the location was announced on Facebook only an hour before it opened. This year the fair’s gone legit. It has a permit, meaning it will operate without fear of being busted. The bigger victory, however, may be the location: the Fort Mason Parking lot. Operating out of autos and trucks, the assembled artists, many of them worthy, stand to draw attention from the hordes headed to Art Market — something that could help erase or blur the lines separating insiders from outsiders. Two hundred artists are expected.