stARTup Art Fair Creates Space for SF’s Independent Artists

Held up to juggernauts like Basel, the fairs produced by artMRKT Productions, now in New York, Miami, Houston, Seattle, and San Francisco, feel like playful, hip alternatives (see: Williamsburg food trucks shipped out to the Hamptons). But this year, running parallel to artMRKT San Francisco’s fifth outing, a new local effort makes its own outsider debut: the stARTup Art Fair, a showcase for independent artists, which runs from May 1 to 3 at the Hotel del Sol. By allowing artists to represent themselves — and thereby keep 100 percent of their profits — the fair seeks to give a boost to local talent, especially given the current state of the city’s art scene.

San Francisco’s rampant tech gentrification has been at the forefront of the city’s news in the past years, as has its adverse effect on the livelihood of local artists. “As rents go up — driven by the growth of new tech companies looking for space in SF — a number of galleries and artists have been displaced, making it difficult for them to do their own business in the Bay Area,” Ray Beldner, a local artist and one of the fair’s co-founders, explained to us in an e-mail. “As galleries have closed, they have left artists without representatives to bring their work to the art fairs that have become — for better or worse — the main source of art sales and economic support for artists in the last decade. A fair for independent artists, where they interface and reach art fair crowds directly, seemed like the next simple and logical step for artists to regain some control over their economic futures.”

So far, the fair is set to include 37 individual presenters and four collectives — 54 artists in total — a solid majority from California, with a few Brooklynites thrown in for good measure. The gender balance, however, is especially heartening, with an almost exact 50-50 split. (See below for a full list, including links to the participants’ work.)

Co-founder and former gallerist Steve Zavattero clarified that stARTup’s approach isn’t meant as a challenge or snub to the art fair model, per se — especially because, when he attended fairs with Marx & Zavattero, he felt the model “served a necessary and positive purpose.” And not just for the sales, but for the camaraderie: “In the art fair trenches, where we all worked towards a similar goal, we learned from each other and gained a profound respect for how we all operated and survived within the business,” he said. “I am hopeful that the artists exhibiting in stARTup Art Fair will experience the same positive results, on both a professional and personal level.”

Beldner echoed the sentiment: “Is it a panacea for all their problems? No, but it’s one more unique way for artists to find support for their creative endeavors.”

“We can’t guarantee that we will make a love connection between our artists and the tech community, but we certainly will try,” Zavattero added. “They will have the opportunity to visit a unique environment for viewing art, meet the artists, and hopefully feel the need to engage by supporting the longevity of working artists in San Francisco.”

And here are those working artists they’ll have the chance to support:


Kathy Aoki | Santa Clara, CA

Joy Broom | Martinez, CA

Stacey Carter | San Francisco, CA

Robin Denevan | San Francisco, CA

Rodney Ewing | San Francisco, CA

Mitra Fabian | San Jose, CA

Michele Foyer | San Francisco, CA

Naomi Frank | Brooklyn, NY

Shane Gidcumb | Healdsburg, CA

David Gista | Chicago, IL

Miriam Hitchcock | Santa Cruz, CA

Terry Hoff | Pacifica, CA

David Jones | Berkeley, CA

Jennifer Kaufman | San Francisco, CA

Kelli Scott Kelley | Baton Rouge, LA

Mikey Kelly | Napa, CA

Joshua Nissen King | San Francisco, CA

Jessica Kirkpatrick | San Rafael, CA

Liséa Lyons | Brooklyn, NY

Barry Masteller | Aromas, CA

Clive McCarthy | San Francisco, CA

Lindsay Evans Montgomery | Campbell, CA

Theresa Morgan | Berkeley, CA

Karen Olsen-Dunn | San Francisco, CA

Freya Prowe | Berkeley, CA

David Quinn | Brooklyn, NY

Eugene Rodriguez | San Francisco, CA

Kimberly Rowe | Berkeley, CA

Brian Singer | San Francisco, CA

am Stöhr | San Francisco, CA

Chris Thorson | Napa, CA

Margaret Timbrell | San Francisco, CA

David Tomb | San Francisco, CA

Jordan West | Santa Fe, NM

Forrest Williams | New York, NY

Bijan Yashar | Albany, CA

Jenifer Yeuroukis | Portland, OR


Los Angeles Art Association: Andrew Pasquella/Miguel Osuna | Los Angeles, CA

Quite Contrary Press: Tony Bellaver/Mary V. Marsh | Oakland, CA

A Simple Collective: Craig Calderwood/Chris Evans/Rodney Ewing/Philip Hua/Evie Leder/Rhiannon MacFadyen/Geri Montano/Tim Roseborough/Lauren A. Toomer/Jason Wyman San Francisco, CA

WaldmanArts: Jon Fischer/Andrzej Michael Karwacki/Beth Davila Waldman | Mill Valley, CA

— Anneliese Cooper (@DawnDavenport)

(Photos: Joy Broom; Margaret Timbrell; Terry Hoff; Freya Prowe; all images courtesy of stARTup Art Fair)