Q&A with Gallery Owner Jessica Silverman

November 2, 2016

Residents of and visitors to San Francisco’s 181 Fremont Condominium Residences are sure to notice the eye-catching works of art that animate the luxury condo’s presentation suite. Selected for 181 Fremont by San Francisco gallerist Jessica Silverman, these works are only a hint of the rich connections between this exquisite residence and the vibrant contemporary art community of San Francisco. Silverman has partnered with 181 Fremont to offer her expertise and advice to residents who wish to establish or expand a new collection. San Francisco’s unusual combination of an established and world-renowned cultural community with the robust venture capital (VC) and technology sectors gives new collectors and patrons of the arts opportunities to make a real contribution to the city’s artistic landscape—and that always begins at home.

As Silverman recalls, her grandparents’ collection of avant-garde FLUXUS works sparked her passion for art, and the excitement of owning her own business made the gallery world a natural fit for her. Here, Silverman talks about her journey to the art world, her observations about collecting today, and her high hopes for the artistic community of 181 Fremont.

1.Where does your passion for art come from?

One of my earliest memories is of my grandparents’ FLUXUS collection. I recall seeing not only FLUXUS objects around the house, but also works by Duane Hanson, Lucio Fontana, Janine Antoni, and an extensive collection of Joseph Beuys. The FLUXUS work I remember most vividly is Ay-O’s wooden boxes because I could put my finger inside of them and feel various textures. I still remember one box in particular, which was covered in black tape to prevent me from playing with it because it had a needle inside. These objects made an early impression on me and have recently been donated to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

2.What drew you to the gallery side of the art world?

I could combine my love of art and business into one space, bringing together my passion for working with artists and my interest in owning my own business.

3.How would you describe the art scene in San Francisco? How does it compare to other major cities?

San Francisco has a rich history of philanthropy and a lot of support for its museums and arts institutions. We are also in the midst of many new collectors who come from various VC and technology sectors, which is unlike most other cities. This means that for us, education is important because it helps guide new collectors to build a strong collection and a stable relationship with the gallery ecosystem.

4.What is your process for selecting art and artists to feature in your gallery? What do you look for most?

I have a slow and deliberate process when working with artists. It is based on seeing the seriousness of their practice, having conversations with them, and also trust. My mission is to “build careers.” My process usually begins with three to four studio visits to meet the artist and view the work. While I’m interested in their current work, I’m also looking for the potential of the artist and how they will expand beyond a singular body of work. I do look for artists who are willing to push the boundaries of contemporary art and who are not easily swayed by trends.

5.What emerging artist(s) have you recently featured or are you hoping to feature?

On November 4th, we open a new group show called An Uncanny Order, which includes two younger artists that I am very excited about—Nevine Mahmoud from LA and Sebastian Fierro from Bogota.

6.What is your favorite piece from the sales gallery? Tell us a little bit about that piece.

It is very hard to choose favorites. That being said, I love the Hugh Scott-Douglas “laser-cut” work. This series consist of abstract laser cuts on white gessoed canvas. Each composition is developed from vector files in which the visual information is provided by photographs of the artist’s earlier cyanotype works. This information is then reordered by a digital algorithm and laser cut into the surface of a white gessoed canvas.

7.What do you like most about the 181 Fremont property? Is there a specific room or detail that caught your attention?

I love the details in each room and the surfaces. The marble in the kitchen, the bathroom fixtures. When it all comes together, it really screams luxury and comfort!

8.In your eyes, what sets 181 Fremont apart from other new developments in the area?

The fact that Orlando Diaz-Azcuy pays attention to every aspect of the apartment spaces sets 181 Fremont apart from everything else on the market.

9.Tell us a more about the invitation you have extended to 181 Fremont buyers—welcoming them to the gallery for private consultations. How do you help select art for the space?

It would be my pleasure to discuss art with anyone who is considering living at 181 Fremont. I think that when they consider a space, they may think about the nice white empty walls and what could live on them. Through education, looking at art, having conversations, and getting to know each person, it becomes a fun, exciting, and rewarding (on both sides, I hope) process to find great pieces that they want to live with for many years to come!

10.What would we find on the walls of your home?

My partner Sarah Thornton and I love to live with art. Right now, we have many amazing works in our downtown SF apartment. Many of the works are by gallery artists such as Hugh Scott-Douglas, Julian Hoeber, Margo Wolowiec, Dashiell Manley, and Matt Lipps. Alongside these works are pieces that Sarah acquired while living in London and following photography. These works are by Lorna Simpson, John Baldessari, Francesca Woodman, and Idris Khan. One of my favorite works was a gift from my grandparents, a 1972 Edward Kienholz edition.

11.In your opinion, what effects do different kinds of art (sculptures, paintings, mixed media pieces, etc.) have on a room? 
It really depends on the kind of room we are considering and the way in which a person likes to live with art. Some people like to fill every wall and corner with art. I personally like to work with art as points of focus, to fill emptiness, and to start conversation. It is so great when you walk in a room, and everything from the carpet to the couch to the art on the wall feels loved, lived with, and thought through. Those are usually my guiding principles.

Residents of 181 Fremont are arguably moving into a work of art, full of luxurious materials and shaped by the singular aesthetic vision of Orlando Diaz-Azcuy. Residents can also work closely with Jessica Silverman to find the works of art that will transform their luxury condo into their uniquely artistic new home.