Taking place the weekend before Memorial Day, the SF Fine Art Fair will be held in the Marina District’s expansive Fort Mason Center, a common venue for large-scale events in San Francisco. But the Center will be so transformed you might not remember where you are. “When we come into a venue, we build walls, extravagant lighting… It’s an elegant setting,” says Jeffrey Wainhause, the man behind the gathering. The event is being billed as the first art fair of its scale and significance to hit the Bay Area in seven years (prestigious galleries from across the globe will be involved), and for Wainhause, the not-so-secret ingredient is that it won’t really feel like a fair at all. He wants you to think of it as a living, breathing museum—with one key difference. “It’s a museum setting, but without all the stuffiness,” he laughs. “You don’t have to be quiet.”
“An underserved market”
All this time without a grand art fair—did this mean there was something missing in San Francisco as a locale? For Wainhause, it was quite the opposite. An opportunity was being missed. “It’s an underserved market,” he says, in terms of people who would be both interested in viewing, and capable of buying, serious art. Wainhause sees in the Bay Area’s young, tech-oriented culture a community of potential art-lovers who haven’t been properly courted. So he’s bringing the event to their back door. And he’s tailored it to their taste. “It’s a younger, hipper show,” he says. “There are a lot of modern painters.” (He also just happened to mention that using Eventbrite fit in with this fresh, tech-savvy approach.)
A blank (but not bland) slate
For both the new and traditional art lovers, it was crucial that the space really work. And for the transformation that Wainhause had in mind, a convention center simply wouldn’t do. “As nice as they can be, you’re still in a convention center,” he notes. The Fort Mason Center had some great natural advantages—”it’s beautiful that it’s on the water,” Wainhause says—but more important, it felt uncorporate: the kind of place you could fill with your own design scheme and expect it to stick. It’s a lesson to recall for hosts of art events—or any gatherings centered on luxury goods. Wall-to-wall carpeting and fluorescent overheads have a way of preventing guests from dropping five figures on a canvas.