A New Year's Resolution for the Bay Area Art Scene

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The new Guerrero Gallery during the opening of Hilary Pecis' 'El Verano' in 2016. (Photo: Alan Gonzalez; Courtesy of Guerrero Gallery)

2016 was the year of more. More art spaces, more shows, more mainstream art happening in the Bay Area than ever before. A mix of brand new spaces, reopenings and expansions brought us 500 Capp Street, CTRL+SHFT, Minnesota Street Project, PACE Palo Alto, the oasis of Guerrero Gallery, a Gagosian outpost, a bigger Altman Siegel, UC Davis’ Manetti Shrem Museum, and a new San Francisco Arts Commission GalleryBAMPFA and SFMOMA.

If we gained more square footage for art in 2016, the year also proved Bay Area artists will continue to gather for the sake of being together, regardless of location: the San Francisco Art Book Fair drew crowds of 9,000 to the Dogpatch over its inaugural weekend, the second Parking Lot Art Fair overtook even more of Fort Mason’s asphalt entryway and in the wake of the Oakland warehouse fire that claimed 36 lives, countless arts spaces opened their doors to vigils, benefit shows and community gatherings as we comforted each other in the wake of so much loss.

It’s this impulse toward gathering -- for mutual support and resistance -- that most energizes me in the face of 2017. As simple as it may seem, gathering at a local art opening, attending an artist talk, and perusing an open studios weekend are tangible, visible (and usually completely free) ways to show those in the Bay Area art community that you value their presence and their work. Nobody creates art in a vacuum. Having a living, breathing audience is a vital element of any artist’s practice.

As Renny Pritikin, current chief curator at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, wrote in 2009 in his 23-point treatise “Prescription for a Healthy Art Scene”: in addition to a cadre of artists, teaching opportunities, schools, studios, alternative spaces, dealers, collectors, art writers, publications, grants and museums, the art ecosystem needs “interested audiences who attend all the above and read about it.”

So I’ll keep writing about it, you keep reading about it, and here’s to all of us showing up more in 2017.