San Francisco’s Vibrant Art Scene Isn’t Dying Out Anytime Soon

Friday, November 11, 2022

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Declared a failed city by the Atlantic this past June only to be praised in the New York Times’ travel section and named one of the world’s greatest places by Time Magazine the following month, San Francisco has long been the subject of debate, particularly by those outside of the Bay Area. In late August, this debate turned art-specific when the Times ran an article characterizing the local art community as “overshadowed by the vibrant scene in Los Angeles” following the closure of Gagosian’s outpost in San Francisco and Pace’s Palo Alto location.

It’s not unusual for Times pieces to inspire fierce pushback, but in this case, many in the Bay Area saw obvious problems with its focus on the art market, specifically its emphasis on the departure of two New York–based blue-chip galleries, as the one defining indicator of the art community’s wellbeing.

“San Francisco is more than just mega-galleries coming in and surviving,” said Trish Bransten, director of Rena Bransten Gallery. “A flyover gallery is not meaningful here, so the fact that they left is not a reasonable metric for the viability of the Bay Area art scene.”

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Harley Wong