Art fairs can overwhelm. Whether it’s their maze-like architecture of temporary booths filled with an enormous variety of contemporary art, or the crowds of people intent on not just looking at that art, but actually purchasing it, fairs can be exhausting, both visually and physically.
And with not one but two commercial art fairs overtaking the edges of San Francisco this week -- the fourth annual FOG Design+Art Fair and newcomer UNTITLED -- a strategy for allocating one's time and energy is in order.
Because on the flipside of exhaustion is exhilaration. Fairs bring far-flung galleries and artists to our doorstep, saving us the expense of international travel. Programmers pull out the stops, organizing talks, performances and moments worth braving these (sometimes claustrophobic) environments of enormous wealth and enormous spending. If you're an art lover, you'll want to bust out your comfy shoes.
Thursday, Jan. 12; doors at 6pm, performance begins at 6:30pm
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
FREE with RSVP
Begin the busy next few days in a meditative state with an experimental symphony by Yves Klein, the modernist perhaps best known for monochrome paintings rendered in his signature, electric blue. The Monotone-Silence Symphony, developed by Klein around 1947-48, similarly explores the concept of a single artistic material -- in this case, a single note performed by a group of musicians and singers for 20 minutes straight. The group then “performs” an equal amount of absolute silence. Klein himself described the symphony -- performed only once in his brief lifetime -- as creating “aspiration outside of time.” It’s an exercise in stamina that might prove transcendent, especially against the backdrop of Grace Cathedral and its seven-second acoustic delay.
Jan. 12, 7pm; Jan. 13-14 cruises at 7 and 9pm
Launching from Pier 40, San Francisco
Tickets: $35 regular; $160 VIP on Jan. 12
In conjunction with UNTITLED, The Lab takes its programming offshore for three nights of a “floating noise club” party cruise in the San Francisco Bay. Conceived by Oakland-based artist Constance Hockaday, Attention! We’ve moved. counters the ongoing displacement of radical, queer and experimental communities from the Bay Area landscape, carving out a space for these groups to exist on the water. Emceed by Jibz Cameron’s outrageous alter ego Dynasty Handbag, each cruise features performances from local acts like Las Sucias, Voicehandler and psychedelic dance party organizers International Freakout A Go-Go -- and, of course, a cash bar to keep the party going.
Saturday, Jan. 14, 1-4pm
UNTITLED, Pier 70, San Francisco
FREE with fair admission: $20-30
Local artists Rebecca Goldfarb (the late David Ireland’s last studio assistant) and Andrew Sheets ( filmmaker and artist guide at 500 Capp Street) lead a free workshop on the making of Ireland’s “quintessential” artwork -- a concrete sphere he dubbed the “dumbball.” Participate in Ireland’s ritualistic, meditative practice of tossing a lump of (quick-dry) concrete back and forth between your hands. Artistic decision-making is replaced by the material’s drying time, a metaphor for Ireland’s approach to artmaking across media. Most importantly, if you can’t afford to purchase anything at UNTITLED, you’ll leave this workshop with a dumbball of your very own.
FOG Art+Design, Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, San Francisco
Friday, Jan. 13, 5pm
FREE with fair admission: $20
FOG is stacked with four very full days of artist and designer talks, panel discussions and screenings, but none have me as excited as this one. If the name Susan Kare draws a blank, think back to the early days of the original Apple Macintosh. Its icons -- the watch, the trash can, the pouring bucket of paint, the happy boxy little Mac -- now accepted without question as the symbols of computing, are all courtesy of Kare. She’s been called the “icon of icons” by Wired, and if you have any interest in how the bits and pieces of our digital visual culture get made, this talk won’t disappoint.
Jan. 12-15, 12-6pm
Alter Space, San Francisco
It wouldn’t be a week of art fairs without an artist-organized alternative “fair” of a scrappier sort. Alter Space hosts Mind Control, a gathering of twelve commercial galleries, curatorial projects, online spaces and artist collectives from Reno, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area. Never quite able to catch a project by Quality, Nook Gallery or Y2K? Now’s your chance. As a bonus, Mind Control remains open long after FOG and UNTITLED break down their temporary art mazes and pack up, with open hours through Jan. 28, Thursday through Saturday, 1-6pm.