San Francisco is so full of art, it’s overwhelmingly cool. With one day to hit a few highlights, it was a whirlwind of intake, with the digestion TBD. I started off by meeting Julian Cox at the deYoung Museum, where he is chief curator. Julian was formerly the head of photography at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and we had a bit of overlapping photo community time together before he accepted this position in California. We went to the top of the tower, and Julian gave me the lay of the city. This is a breathtaking experience, even if you are getting over-run by school children. The building sits on the grounds of the California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894, which accounts for the formal garden and amphitheater that separate it from the Museum of Arts and Sciences. The original building suffered structural damage in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and the new building opened in 2005. (I can really geek out over these things. . .)
While significantly smaller than SFMOMA and without the beefy permanent collection of heavy-hitters, the deYoung is actually the most visited museum west of the Mississippi. Julian and I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of this position, and it did not seem disimilar to some of the challenges and solutions I write about bringing new audiences to art. For example, SFMOMA has the ability to bring in large name blockbuster type exhibitions, and the deYoung does not have the same resources to do so at that level, and since an art museum in the same city is already doing it, you could make a case for redundancy by going that route. So instead of directly competing, the deYoung has the flexibility to capitalize on its wider scope of art (SFMOMA is contemporary, the deYoung has a wide range of collections - more like a mini Metropolitan Museum of Art) and its larger number of visitors by adding some unknown/lesser-known artists into the mix. So while they may be drawing people in with the Girl With the Pearl Earring, those guests will also see Kael Alford and ThorneAnderson's Iraq photographs. And because the deYoung has a huge Friday night program with thousands coming out every week, they coordinated the artist talk for Kael and Thorne to be on a Friday night, where they presented the work to an enthusiastic crowd who most likely was unfamiliar with the work and these artists prior to that night. I think that's what it's all about - using the connections you already have to your target audience to get over the obstacles to reaching them.
Next I breezed through the Garry Winogrand exhibit at SFMOMA. It is a huge exhibition and shows a lot of previously unprinted work the curators selected from contact sheets. Although this isn't typically the style of photography I am most drawn to, I appreciate the talent and the sheer breadth of American experience he covered. And while I generally associate Winogrand with whimsical, clever imagery, it was interesting to see how he seemed to be right at the crux of American life through three decades and how certain events shaped his perception of America which resulted in images that seemed darker and cynical in his later work.
To round out the day, I met up with a collector in Atlanta at 49 Geary Street to pop into Fraenkel Gallery, Cordon | Potts and Modernbook. She loves Modernbook (has bought from them at art fairs), but had never been in their space. I am a fan too, and always stop by when I'm in town. We were both surprised by the current exhibit, which seems so different from the Tom Chambers/Jamie Baldridge selections we are accustomed to seeing, but it was nice to see the space, as always. I also enjoyed chatting with Jan Potts (who I will see next week at PhotoLucida and hope to catch up more) and bumping into Darius Himes at Fraenkel. I just love photography people.
Today is the pop-up at Photobooth SF from 1-3pm, and I can't wait! Last week was the most fun, and we have another sunny California day to enjoy. So come one, come all - art is awesome!