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Cutting Out the Middleman at the Startup Art Fair

An art fair that works for—not just with—artists.

 

Conceptual artist John Baldessari once likened attending an art fair to walking in on your parents having sex: While you understand that the process is necessary, you still don’t want to watch it in action.

Enter the Startup Art Fair: a three-day event (April 29–May 1) that aims to counter the commodification of the art biz by bringing buyers face-to-face with artists—and without gallery intermediaries. Startup takes place at the Marina District’s funky Hotel del Sol, with “independent artists doing solo booths,” says Steve Zavattero, a former coowner of Marx & Zavattero Gallery (with art adviser Heather Marx) who cofounded the fair with artist Ray Beldner in 2014. “We’re asking artists to become entrepreneurs.”

A jury of artists and gallerists evaluates and selects the exhibitors, who pay a $3,000 fee to secure a room key. But while a fifty-fifty profit split between gallerists and artists is common at traditional art fairs, here the artists keep 100 percent of sales.

Zavattero and Beldner aim to occupy a middle ground between the no-frills Parking Lot Art Fair, a rogue event at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture’s main gate, and established gallery vehicles like ArtMrkt and Fog Design + Art. Past participants liken the event to a sceney networking party. “Sharing a hotel with 50 artists was like a vacation in my own city,” says local painter Robin Denevan, who took part last year. “A vacation that also translated into sales and commissions.”


Originally published in the May issue of
San Francisco

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