CAREERS + ED ISSUE: Gallery evictions signal a major shift in the art world, with the technology boom serving as the problem and its potential solution
Steve Zavaretto describes the art scene as an ecosystem, a delicate community of galleries, artists, and art lovers that rely on each other. With the displacement of artists and art studios from the city, where do art galleries find content? With the rise of the Internet and art fairs, can galleries really dedicate themselves to their own artist exhibitions? Where do art collectors and curators find talent if galleries keep closing?
"Having space is a luxury and ever since the Internet and the accessibility of images through the Internet, we are left constrained by having to show people things in our space," says Catharine Clark, the owner of her eponymous gallery in Potrero Flats, an emerging hot spot in the art scene.
Clark moved her gallery out of SoMa when the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art began remodeling. The construction was going to be disruptive to the business, she says. "But we've certainly done business with people who have never even seen the space so one could ask questions about what is the value of space if it doesn't contribute to — and in fact actually takes away from — the ability to be open to the rest of the world."
The millennials expect everything to be available online. If they want to buy an Alexander McQueen dress without even trying it on, they can use Farfetch. They get their news, buy groceries, and send birthday presents online. There is undoubtedly an untapped market of art lovers who would like to purchase original art online.
A gallery artist exhibition used to be the most coveted means of exposure for artists, but the walls of a gallery seem to restrict exposure in the present day. The space a gallery is constricted compared to the limitless Internet, although many artists are reluctant to go digital because their art isn't easily translatable into megabytes. Photographs are the easiest to convert onto screens; sculptures are the most difficult.
Jeremy Sutton is an artist who relies heavily on technology and innovation. Based in Potrero Flats, in a building comprised of artists studios, Sutton creates art on digital tablets and canvas. The charismatic painter often combines digital and physical paint. "I'm not trying to paint stuff that specifically looks digital," he says with a smile in the comfort of his studio. "I'm trying to create artwork that evokes and speaks and communicates as an artwork and as a painting."
Sutton's work pays off in live action painting events. He has worked with the de Young Museum, Cirque du Soleil, and various corporate events. During the de Young events, Sutton will portray famous painters such as Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh and create traditional and digital artwork during a live performance.
This British artist has built a strong online presence, creating a brand behind his name. While a lot of his work is digital, his most sublime pieces are better viewed in person than on a screen. He currently has an exhibit at Embarcadero Four and is working on a commission piece, yet he rarely gets business through art on the wall.
Breaking down the costly brick and mortar walls, the independent consulting business model has become popular with former gallerists. Heather Marx is launching Heather Marx Art Advisory, a consulting business based on private and corporate advising, curatorial projects, and artist collaborations.
During the 2008 financial collapse, the art industry suffered tremendously. Americans for the Arts' 2013 National Arts Index, a score of the health and vitality of the arts in the country, increased progressively between 2003 and 2007. The two-year Great Recession showed a drop far exceeding the five years before it. The art industry is still struggling, with 2011 marking the lowest index score of the 21st century.