FOG Design+Art Fair 2017 Ushers in New Era for San Francisco

All eyes are on the local market.

Atmosphere at FOG Preview Gala 2017 at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco, CA Photo by Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography.

The threat of a torrential downpour could not stop some 2,000 guests from attending the FOG Design+Art Preview Gala on January 11. The rain finally hit shortly after 7:00 p.m., but the activity was still buzzing as fairgoers filled the aisles at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason Center.

An enormous installation titled 21POP, comprised of vibrant rug patterns made from some 200,000 roses designed by San Francisco-based event planner Stanlee R. Gatti—who also oversaw Kanye West’s proposal to Kim Kardashian at AT&T Park in 2014—greeted guests at the fair’s entrance. A heart, with the name Cathy inside it, served as an ode to Cathy Topham, a FOG Design + Art steering committee member, who has been affected by a serious illness. Inside the installation, artisans made floral-themed crafts.

Gatti and Durkin dreamed of a design and art fair about five years ago, designated SFMOMA the beneficiary of its opening night gala, and organized a steering committee made up by Topham, Katie Schwab Paige, Roth Martin and Allison Speer. Back then, “it was a struggle to get the national dealer community to believe in coming to San Francisco for something like this,” said FOG co-founder Douglas Durkin. But things have changed since its first edition four years ago. “We have a waiting list of dealers now to get into the fair,” said Durkin.

Atmosphere at FOG Preview Gala 2017 January 11th 2017 at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco, CA. Photo by Drew Altizer.

Atmosphere at FOG Preview Gala 2017 January 11th 2017 at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco, CA. Photo by Drew Altizer.

Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, designer Yves Béhar and his wife, art advisor Sabrina Buell, filmmaker and artist John Waters, and Creative Artists Agency co-founder Michael Ovitz were among the VIPs who attended the gala.

The art world certainly has its eyes on the San Francisco market, and directors from practically every major fair attended the gala, including Frieze director Victoria Siddall, Frieze artistic director Abby Bangser, Armory Show director Ben Genocchio, Art Basel Americas director Noah Horowitz, viennacontemporary director Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt, Design Miami/ director Rodman Primack, and Collective Design director Steven Learner.


“People are curious about the fair, and there’s a lot of word on the street that this is a very successful enjoyable, out-of-the-box experience at FOG,” said Durkin. 

FOG’s focus on art and design, its small size and relaxed atmosphere, and in true Bay Area-nature, its congeniality, set it apart from other fairs. We try to make an environment where that engagement between the public and the dealer happens in a very congenial fashion, so there’s a lot of people who are new to this who are coming to the fair, and there’s a lot of conversation going on, as opposed to everything being put on hold before the doors open, and people snatching things up,” said Durkin.

Gabriel Orozco Armonía de ondulaciones 2016. Courtesy kurimanzutto.

Gabriel Orozco, Armonía de ondulaciones (2016). Courtesy kurimanzutto.

Sales were brisk for the fair’s 45 exhibitors during its opening hours. Mexico City-based kurimanzutto sold works by Cruz Villegas and a 2016 graphite piece titled Armonia de ondulaciones (Harmony of undulations). The booth also featured a green abstract work by Orozco from his Aspen Museum exhibition, and sculptures made from found Murano glass by Jimmie Durham, which were featured in the 2015 Venice Biennale. Durham has been having a very good year already; he has his first North American retrospective opening at the Hammer Museum in two weeks. The show will then travel to the Walker in Minneapolis this spring, the Whitney in the fall, and the Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Canada in 2018.

San Francisco gallery Anthony Maier mounted a show of new work by Donald Moffett and Kate Shepherd, with prices ranging from $4,200 to $90,000. “There is a process and tactile thread that runs through both of their practices,” said senior director Rebecca Camacho. Moffett experimented with new colors and scale, creating pieces with wood, oil on linen and steel that resembled a rectangle of plastic fur with a hole in it, while Shepherd had the idea to cast everyday supermarket items in bronze, like she did with pairs of eggs. Three works by Moffett and two of Shepherd’s bronze sets had already sold.

Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner's booth. Courtesy of Ann Binlot.

Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner’s booth. Courtesy of Ann Binlot.

David Zwirner proved that they are well acquainted with San Francisco collectors, reporting myriad sales, including a 2016 sculpture by Carol Bove, a 2011 Wolfgang Tillmans inkjet print of water, a 1955 abstract painting by Josef Albers, as well as a sculpture by Ruth Asawa, who is a new addition to the gallery’s roster.

The tech-savvy Pace marked its booth with a kinetic Shy Lights sculpture by the Netherlands-based Studio Drift that danced from above, thanks to an algorithm that made the illuminated white flowers go in and out of bloom. There was also a maquette for a sculpture they created for the 2015 Venice Biennale. Works ranged from $40,000 to $1 million, and the gallery mentioned that a 2016 Leo Villareal Cloud Drawing that echoes the same pulsing movements as his Bay Lights on the San Francisco Bay Bridge had already sold. “It’s a very vibrant market. It’s an amazing community, and I think with the SFMOMA opening, it’s just been this wonderful thing going on, so we’re kind of all embracing it,” said Pace president Elizabeth Sullivan.


FOG Design. Courtesy of Ann Binlot.

Ai Weiwei at Haines Gallery’s booth. Courtesy of Ann Binlot.


For their fair debut, Lévy Gorvy showed a selection of works by Yves Klein—the gallery is presenting a rendition of his Monotone Silence Symphony tonight—Enrico Castellani, Gego, Joel Shapiro and Günther Uecker. Gagosian exhibited Sterling Ruby ashtrays with paintings by Helen Frankenthaler. At Marian Goodman, there was a $600,000 John Baldessari work that showed a Jackson Pollock painting on top of a Thomas Hart Benton piece with a white rectangle covering each one.

Several other booths highlighted Bay Area exhibitions and projects, like Altman Siegel, which showed two images by Trevor Paglen, who is participating in a residency at Stanford and is staging a performance with the Kronos Quartet on Saturday, that references cloud storage. Tanya Bonakdar Gallery exhibited spider-silk on paper pieces by Tomas Saraceno, who currently has an exhibition at SFMOMA.

The fair took a departure from the politically-charged Art Basel in Miami Beach, with the exception of black-and-white photographs highlighting arrests of black Americans during the Civil Rights Movement by Danny Lyon at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, and a $221,000 porcelain bicycle basket filled with flowers by Ai Weiwei at Haines Gallery, that represented the actual basket Ai would fill with fresh flowers daily during his Chinese state-imposed travel ban. “It’s a beautiful way to celebrate life in the face of great adversity,” remarked Haines Gallery executive director David Spalding.

Barry McGee. Courtesy of Ann Binlot.

Barry McGee. Courtesy of Ann Binlot.

Several of the exhibitors straddled the line between art and design, like Blum & Poe, which displayed several porcelain works by Yoshitomo Nara. Salon 94’s stand wallpaper and art by Betty Woodman in dialogue with a selection of tree vessels by Gaetano Pesce. Carpenter’s Workshop displayed a chaise lounge by Rick Owens and a light sculpture by Mathieu Lehanneur. Olafur Eliasson’s glowing core planet—an illuminated, spherical sculpture—stole the show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, earning the most Instagram posts of any artwork in the fair so far.

Beyond artists hailing from far flung lands, there was a real showing from the Bay Area this year. Barry McGee had a solo stand at Ratio 3 featuring porcelain vessels, plates and paintings ranging from $5,500 for a plate to $50,000 for a painting. “Some of the plates came out of the kiln this morning,” said Chris Perez, who mentioned that several pieces had already sold. David Zwirner featured Asawa, who lived in San Francisco until her death in 2013. Other Bay Area artists showcased in the fair included Richard Serra at Berggruen Gallery, Wally Hedrick at Reform and J.B. Blunk at Blum & Poe.

Local momentum is bound to continue at Untitled San Francisco, which opened yesterday. This vote of confidence bodes well across the art world, said Durkin. “Museums are having different kinds of openings, gallerists are planning openings, there’s a lot of parties going on and gatherings during the week,” he said. “I think this very natural art and design week is starting to happen here for us, which we’re thrilled about.”

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