I find comfort in convenience and routine despite life’s constant flux. It seems that the San Francisco gallery scene is changing due to the economy, an aging gallery model, rents being raised due to the tech boom, buildings being converted into condominiums, owners seeking retirement, and clients shifting to a digitalized world. Within the last two years, galleries are leaving the downtown for pastures with “lower” rent, consequences to the new economy, and/or a life outside of the art world game.
About a year ago, Brian Gross Gallery and Catharine Clark Gallery moved out of downtown area to the Potrero Hill neighborhood in San Francisco to the same building that resides recently relocated Hosfelt Gallery. Now, Rena Bransten Gallery, George Krevsky Gallery, and Patricia Sweetow Gallery are leaving the 77 Geary Street building due to the tech company Mulesoft’s ability to pay twice the rent. There is nothing wrong with making more money, it’s the American way. However, if or when this tech boom bubble bursts- will the community be left with empty offices? It’s hard to know.
When visiting the Los Angeles area, I visit the Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, Culver City Art District, and Gallery Row in Downtown to view art. While in New York City, stops include Chelsea, SoHo, Upper East Side, and Lower East Side to mention a few. In San Francisco proper, it leaves a visitor asking where does one start a gallery tour.
Bottom line: I believe gallery patrons enjoy a one stop approach. If many hours are devoured by driving, walking, biking, and/or riding public transportation to see less than 10 galleries- it’s hard to justify the time. When gallery clusters exist, more visitors (possibly buyers) will come. It’s got to be easy, accessible, and reliable. But when financial conditions and times change, what are galleries supposed to do? Exist virtually and not physically?
Galleries are just as important as museums and academic institutions because they are an additional layer of critical analysis, support artists, allow free access to the pubic, and enhance cultural depth to a community. They represent the middlemen for an artist’s career from graduation to death. If they fail to exist, it will reaffirm our current economic divide between the poorest poor and the 1%. A place must exist for living artists to aspire to be in or be inspired by that aides in their development and backing.
Currently, San Francisco is going through a transformation. There’s no way knowing what will happen to the gallery system. My hope is that they will be able to stay afloat during this unpredictable time. The arts are worth the fight even if they’re less profitable at first. In the long run, it’s an investment that lasts for generations.