New York Dealers Roll Out the Heavyweights to Lure Buyers at San Francisco’s Art Fairs

The FOG and Untitled art fairs got off to an impressive start this week in San Francisco.

FOG Design + Art fair on opening night preview. Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Hoping to tap into the lucrative—but frequently elusive—base of potential collectors in San Francisco, New York dealers have brought their A-game to the region this week for the back-to-back openings of the FOG Design + Art fair and the Untitled art fair,

FOG, now in its fifth year, sold out its Wednesday evening gala preview, where we spotted LA arts patron Michael Ovitz and the prominent video art collectors Pamela and Richard Kramlich. Meanwhile, we saw the notorious LA collector Stefan Simchowitz making the rounds at Untitled, the well-received start-up from Miami which kicked off its second San Francisco iteration in a new and, by most accounts, vastly improved venue at the Palace of Fine Arts in the Presidio.

Kohei Nawa's <i>PixCell</i> at Pace Gallery at FOG Design + Art. Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Kohei Nawa’s PixCell at Pace Gallery at FOG Design + Art. Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Powerhouse gallery Pace, which opened a permanent location in downtown Palo Alto in 2016, used the FOG fair as an opportunity to complement its current gallery show there—the first US solo exhibition by Japanese artist Kohei Nawa. Nawa’s wondrous and arresting animal sculptures, which draw on the physical and sensory properties of skin and surface, were an instant—and Instagram-friendly—attraction, particularly, PixCell-Maral Deer, a life-size sculpture of a taxidermied deer.

Noting that this is Pace Gallery’s fourth time participating at FOG, Elizabeth Sullivan, president of Pace Palo Alto, told artnet News that the fair is “a platform for introducing West Coast audiences to artists they might not be as familiar with,” such as Nawa. “We like to think we are bringing something new to the Bay area. From historical works to rising young artists to those deeply engaged with new technology—there is something to engage every collector,” she said.

While the Nawa, priced at $500,000, is currently on reserve, the booth features a number of smaller-scale works priced under $100,000, several of which sold on opening night to private collectors who are mostly from the West Coast.

Ruth Asawa <i>Untitled </i> (circa 1965) ©Ruth Asawa. Courtesy The Estate of Ruth Asawa and David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (ca. 1965) ©Ruth Asawa. Courtesy of the estate of Ruth Asawa and David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong

David Zwirner was the only dealer we counted who opted to participate in both FOG and Untitled. At FOG, the gallery’s blue-chip presentation of works by artists including Richard Serra, Isa Genzken, and Ruth Asawa drew a crush of viewers on opening night and resulted in roughly a dozen sales.

FOG skewed particularly heavy on the design side this year. Paul Kasmin Gallery gave a solo booth to the design-market darlings Claude and François Xavier Lalanne. Titled “Les Lalanne,” the popular solo presentation was inspired by the late Yves Saint Laurent’s music room in his Paris apartment at 55 rue de Babylone, for which he commissioned more than a dozen of Claude Lalanne’s bronze mirrors. The presentation gathers works from 1986 to 2017, including François-Xavier’s Gorille Derange (2007/2010) and Claude’s surrealist Table aux Serpents (2017), which has never been exhibited in the US before.

“Sales have been lively,” Kasmin told artnet News in an email.

Meanwhile, for San Francisco dealers, the crowds in attendance may not have been revelatory but the buying demand was exciting nonetheless. Dealer Jessica Silverman summed it up, saying: “We sold everything that we brought. Collectors made delightfully quick decisions. We sold to many new clients from San Francisco and old friends from LA and Chicago.”

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