The Fog is here with another hectic week full of art
Art fairs are a terrible place to view art. Too crowded on opening day, spookily empty by the end. Lots of disparate objects on display with virtually no contextual information.
Yet, I admit I’ve come around. If one is willing to ask questions in the absence of wall texts, there is really no faster way to get a snapshot of the current scene — or, at least, that part of the scene that revolves around objects with a market, as determined by at least one gallery willing to invest in them.
With the fairs, moreover, come ancillary events like lectures, pop-up exhibits and, truth be told, parties large and small. It all combines into a long, invigorating week for anyone interested in contemporary art.
Fog Design + Art, now in its seventh year, is the one that started it all. It is a homey affair, for several reasons. The whole of the Festival Pavilion, a historic pier at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, is carpeted for the event, which elegantly becalms the vast hall. Design galleries showing collectible furniture make up roughly half the exhibitors. And the fair has such strong support from Bay Area galleries and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art that even international powerhouse dealers like Pace, Gagosian, Zwirner and others pay what can only be called deference to the local leadership.
This year, 48 top galleries will participate. A robust program of 10 panels and talks keeps art on everyone’s mind, with offerings such as a discussion of Italian design, 1965-85, and a panel led by the editor of Artnews magazine in conversation with artist Andrea Bowers, SFMOMA curator Gary Garrels and collector Komal Shah.
11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 16-19. $25. Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, 2 Marina Blvd., S.F. 415-745-3315. www.fogfair.com. A preview gala to benefit SFMOMA exhibitions and education programs takes place Wednesday, Jan. 15, with tickets starting at $175. www.sfmoma.org/event/fog-designart-preview-gala-2
Untitled Art, San Francisco, is the West Coast offshoot of a fair that has been very successful in Miami for some years. It took some time for a site to catch on — there have been three Untitled locations in San Francisco over four years — but the fair returns to the Embarcadero space it occupied last year (like Fog’s home, a repurposed warehouse on a pier).
With 68 participating galleries, Untitled is some 40% larger than Fog. It is also notably scruffier, which is much to the taste of the many San Franciscans who cringe at anything approaching pretension. Seven workshop-style events and six art “special projects” round out Untitled’s offerings with topics like “reimagining equity in the art world” and two Facebook Art Department presentations on the virtual and the physical.
Noon-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17; noon-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 18-19. $30-$40; free for children age 12 and younger. Pier 35, 1454 The Embarcadero, S.F. 646-405-6942. www.untitledartfairs.com/san-francisco
Virtually every art gallery and museum in the Bay Area will pull out the stops during Fog Week, as many call the art fair period. Local museums often present special events pitched to people carrying VIP cards from one of the fairs. These cards are generally handed out to clients and potential clients by the galleries participating in the fairs, or by fair officials themselves.
Influential dealers and collectors come to town from elsewhere, while locals with a deep interest in contemporary art stay put and clear their schedules of conflicting obligations. As a result, many San Francisco galleries put on their most ambitious exhibitions of the year.
So, it won’t be hard to find good shows at the top galleries around the Bay Area next week. However, a few presentations are particularly notable for the rare opportunities they provide.
Gallery 181, the most luxurious by far, is a pop-up space that takes up half the 69th floor at 181 Fremont, a new office and residential tower in downtown San Francisco and the city’s second-tallest building. The gallery will exist in its current incarnation only until the building’s developer sells the apartment — or, shall we style it, “apartment,” as the unfurnished space makes a lovely high-end gallery, with soaring ceilings and a terrific mix of natural and artificial light.
The spectacular views across city and bay alone are worth the visit. Looking down on the frenetic construction proceeding below, considering the enormous wealth such development represents, one is filled with the kind of optimism that might allow one to fantasize investing in paintings priced from the five to mid-six figures.
Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 14, Gallery 181 will host a pop-up presentation from the prominent Los Angeles gallery Blum & Poe. The show will comprise a large number of post-World War II abstract works by Japanese and Korean artists, representing the Mono-ha group (Tokyo, 1968-72); Tokyo “New Wave Painting” (1980s-90s); and the Dansaekhwa (“monochrome painting”) movement in Seoul (1960s-80s). Generally open only by appointment, the gallery will hold public hours on Jan. 14 and 15.
Noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, Jan. 14 -15, or by appointment seven days a week. Jan. 14-March 31. Free. Gallery 181, Penthouse 69B, 181 Fremont St., S.F. 415-288-0888 or email Carmen@181Fremont.com
Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture and the San Francisco Art Institute team up to present artist Rashaad Newsome’s ambitious “To Be Real,” billed as “an exhibition environment of collage, sculpture and the interactive A. I. Being.” Concurrently, the Museum of the African Diaspora will feature two video works by Newsome that look at the dance tradition of vogue. And next weekend, Newsome will present his performance “Running” at Fort Mason, which employs several vocalists as well as samples of vocals from Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, James Brown, Kelly Price and others.
Exhibition: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Through Feb. 23. Free. SFAI Main Gallery, Pier 2. Performance: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Jan. 17-18. $15-$20. Gallery 308. Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, 2 Marina Blvd., S. F. (415) 345-7575. https://fortmason.org
The gallery Gagosian will show “Man Ray: The Mysteries of Château du Dé,” providing a rare opportunity to view films and film stills by a seminal artist of Dada. It is coupled with a performance of original scores — if you are lucky enough to reserve a free ticket (firstname.lastname@example.org) before all the seats are filled — by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and musician Carter Logan on Thursday, Jan. 16.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Jan. 14-Feb. 29. Free. Gagosian, 657 Howard St., S.F. 415-546-3990. https://gagosian.com
Carpenters Workshop Gallery, a long-term resident at the quirky, fetching St. Joseph’s Arts Society, is bringing the Amsterdam design duo Studio Drift to San Francisco to present “Drift: About Nature, Technology, and Humankind.” Known for high-tech-meets-contemplative sculptural lighting, among other hybrid objects and installations, the Dutch artists (Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta) will be in town for a 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, St. Joseph’s public opening that also celebrates exhibitions of works by Sabrina Ratte, Oliva Steele, Masami Teraoka and Ben Venom.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Jan. 17-May 1. Free. Carpenters Workshop Gallery, St. Joseph’s Arts Society, 1401 Howard St., S.F. 415-626-1089. www.carpentersworkshopgallery.com
Finally, for those not yet bleary-eyed by Saturday, Minnesota Street Project will hold a public reception to celebrate programs at all 13 galleries located in the complex.
10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18. Free. Minnesota Street Project, 1275 Minnesota St. and 1150 25th St., S.F. 415-243-0825. http://minnesotastreetproject.com