Battle by the Bay: San Francisco Fine Art Fair and artMRKT San Francisco Go Head-to-Head This Week

Deborah Butterfield's "Untitled #3877.1," 2011
(Courtesy Paule Anglim Gallery)

In what may be one of the clearest tests of the potential for art fair oversaturation, the weekend of May 17–20 will see two burgeoning contemporary shows — one started by a former partner of the other — go head-to-head for the Northern California market. The older of the two, the San Francisco Fine Art Fair, launched in 2010, will pack more than 70 international exhibitors, including Ace Gallery, from Los Angeles, Gerald Peters Gallery, of New York and Santa Fe, and London’s Cynthia Corbett Gallery, into the Fort Mason Center, a renovated military complex and urban park. “When we started these fairs we were looking for sophisticated art markets outside the New York-L.A.-Miami thing,” explains Rick Friedman, the event’s director and also the man behind ArtHamptons, ArtAspen, the Houston Fine Art Fair, and the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair. “At the time, San Francisco hadn’t had a fair in about 18 years, so we felt it was time to resurrect it. This is an art-savvy and very cultured city.”

Back for its sophomore outing, artMRKT San Francisco was started by Friedman’s former colleague Max Fishko, who also has fairs in Houston, the Hamptons, and Miami. Similar in size to SFFAF, artMRKT will take place at the Concourse Exhibition Center, a 57,000- square-foot former railway station in the city’s SoMa district. The strong slate of local galleries such as Paule Anglim, Rena Bransten, Catherine Clark Gallery, Frey Norris, and Brian Gross Fine Art is bolstered by two new additions this year: Martin Muller’s Modernism and the Patricia Sweetow Gallery. “We don’t want to be one of those companies that just franchise something moderately successfully,” says Fishko. “I’d rather we be known as a company that can successfully create new brands.”

Click on the slide show to see works from this week's San Francisco Fine Art Fair and artMRKT San Francisco.

This article appears in the May issue of Art+Auction.