A 2020 Guide to San Francisco’s Art Fairs, Untitled and FOG

FOG Design+Art at Fort Mason Center's Festival Pavilion, 2019. (Courtesy of FOG)

It’s that time of year again, when galleries, designers and art spaces from around the world arrive in San Francisco for a weekend of schmoozing, showcasing and selling their wares. FOG Design+Art (now self-described as “a platform”) returns Jan. 16–19 at Fort Mason Center’s Festival Pavilion. And Untitled, Art San Francisco takes shape at Pier 35, Jan. 17–19.

In addition to offering what feels like miles of booths of fine art and design objects—and several bars to keep you cheery and/or hydrated along the way—next weekend’s art fairs play host to a variety of public events, most included in the cost of admission (that’s $25 for FOG and $30–$40 for Untitled).

To plan your art-filled weekend accordingly, here’s a list of recommended events.

Installation view of 'With Drawn Arms: Glenn Kaino and Tommie Smith,' San José Museum of Art, 2019. (Photo by JKA Photography)

Curator’s Tour of ‘With Drawn Arms: Glenn Kaino and Tommie Smith’

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 11am–12pm (RSVP required)
San José Museum of Art

Satellite programming for Untitled stretches well beyond the confines of Pier 35, providing plenty of opportunities to sample the wider Bay Area art scene with a bit of VIP flair. Down in San Jose, SJMA curator Lauren Schell Dickens leads a private tour of With Drawn Arms, a collaboration between Los Angeles artist Glenn Kaino and Olympic runner Tommie Smith—immortalized with teammate John Carlos in photographs of the 1968 medal ceremony, their heads bowed and gloved fists raised. For the runners, that gesture was a protest against human rights abuses around the world, as well as a symbol of black struggle for civil rights in the U.S. With Drawn Arms mingles sculpture, prints, documentary film and Smith’s personal memorabilia, expanding beyond a moment on stage to reflect on the ongoing legacy of an athlete and activist.

Work from Simon Denny's 'Security Through Obscurity' at Altman Siegel Gallery, featuring Margaret Thatcher's scarves repurposed as sculptural material. (Courtesy of Altman Siegel)

Unpacking the Politics of Tech

Thursday, Jan. 16, 3–4pm
FOG, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture

This conversation between contemporary artist Simon Denny and the Fine Arts Museums’ contemporary art curator Claudia Schmuckli does double duty: it coincides with Denny’s show at Altman Siegel (opening Jan. 14), and introduces his upcoming participation in the de Young’s Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI. Of several fair talks that have something to do with technology (FOG boasts at least two other programs in this vein), this one seems the most interesting to general audiences. That is, it’s not geared towards collectors or tech companies. With a narrow focus on one very thoughtful artistic practice—Denny has long engaged with the economic, ethical and geopolitical ramifications of data-based capitalism—this is an “unpacking” (unboxing?) that shouldn’t be missed.

Mike Henderson, 'Me and the Band,' c. 1968. (Courtesy of SFAI)

Mike Henderson Blues Performance

Friday, Jan. 17, 6:30–7pm
Untitled, Pier 35

Not content to excel in just one field, Bay Area painter Mike Henderson is also an accomplished musician. His large-scale figurative canvases were the subject of an excellent solo show at SFAI last year, and if you missed that, his work can be seen at the de Young in Soul of a Nation through mid-March. This musical set, presented by the FOR-SITE Foundation, highlights the influence of blues music on African-American artists during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

Erica Deeman, 'Gregory,' 2016.
Erica Deeman, 'Gregory,' 2016. (Courtesy of the artist and Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco)

Re-Imagining Equity in the Art World 2020

Saturday, Jan. 18, 2–3pm
Untitled, Pier 35

Local artists Indira Allegra, Katherine Vetne and Erica Deeman, and CJM Senior Curator Heidi Rabben, plot a more equitable future in this conversation moderated by CCA’s curatorial practice program chair James Voorhies. Given the severe shortcomings in women’s representation in arts leadership, public art, auction prices and even gallery representation, there’s a lot to talk about. The talk is presented by ArtTable, a 40-year-old nonprofit professional organization that works to advance the leadership of women in the visual arts.

Barbara Jones-Hogu, 'Unite (First State),' 1969 (screenprint); appearing as part of 'Soul of a Nation: Art in The Age of The Black Power Movement' at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Nov. 9, 2019–March 15, 2020.
Barbara Jones-Hogu, 'Unite (First State),' 1969 (screenprint); appearing as part of 'Soul of a Nation: Art in The Age of The Black Power Movement' at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Nov. 9, 2019–March 15, 2020. (© Barbara Jones-Hogu, Courtesy Lusenhop Fine Art)

Real Talk: Speaking to ‘Soul of a Nation’

Saturday, Jan. 18, 4:30–5:30pm
FOG, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture

If you haven’t seen the de Young’s Soul of a Nation yet, you have just over a week to stop by the exhibition before attending this discussion between writer, historian and curator Jacqueline Francis and Bay Area artists Adia Millett and Cheryl Derricotte. They’ll be talking about “the way artists grapple with race and identity,” using the many tactics represented in Soul of a Nation as a jumping-off point.

Rashaad Newsome, Installation view of 'To Be Real' at Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, 2019. (Courtesy of Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture)

Rashaad Newsome: Artist Talk

Sunday, Jan. 19, 11:30am–12:30pm
FOG, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture

Another scheduling suggestion: Stop by Rashaad Newsome’s solo exhibition To Be Real at the pier next door (SFAI’s Main Gallery opens at 11am) just before this talk between the artist and ARTnews Editor-in-Chief Sarah Douglas. They’ll be discussing the New York artist’s past work (bonus viewing, these videos at MoAD); the Cubist-inspired collage and sculpture in To Be Real; and Newsome’s cloud-based interactive AI, Being (also on view). While I have yet to meet Being, Newsome refers to the AI, trained in radical and revolutionary texts, as his “child,” providing rich fodder for a conversation about agency, identity, performance and oppression.

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