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Parties: The Art World Reawakens

Written by Catherine Bigelow | Photography by Drew Altizer

Those poetic “little cat feet” that usually herald a soft arrival of the City’s famous atmospherics arrived on January 19 sheathed in steel-toe, Doc Martens boots for the FOG Design+Art Preview Gala at Fort Mason Center. As 800 guests — about half the usual count — made their way to the Festival Pavilion’s waterfront setting, the weather quickly shifted from warm winter sunshine to moody, gray breezes. Inside, the COVID-tested and masked revelers, whose tickets benefited SFMOMA, enjoyed a preview of the fourday fair that opened to the public the next morning.

Back in December, 45 international gallerists had already insured, shipped and stored their art and objects — including works from the likes of William Kentridge, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Pierre Chapo, Masako Miki, Barry McGee and Haegue Yang. The A16 cantina, from which restaurateur Shelley Lindgren fed hungry connoisseurs throughout the fair, was built. FOG committee member Susan Swig organized a stellar lineup of artist and curator talks.

While acknowledging some trepidation — last year’s fair was canceled after all, and this year’s FOG Innovators Luncheon, honoring artist Linda Ronstadt, was postponed to spring at SFMOMA — designer and FOG founder Stanlee Gatti described the 2022 edition as “a wonderful reunion with friends I haven’t seen in two years. Gallerists love this fair because it’s so unique in size, layout and ambiance. It’s not massive like Art Basel — that’s a competition to buy a million-dollar painting. Gallerists love engaging with FOG collectors, whether buying or not. Their conversations are always smart.”

Guests were greeted by Gatti’s 21POP exhibition, this year starring the vaunted Arion Press. Housed in a working atelier, the installation was crafted from laser-cut, peek-a-boo wood panels from which Gatti designed each letter of the alphabet in 23 different fonts. Arion re-created a portion of its Presidio foundry and bindery, including drawers of lead type, a library of its museum-quality books and original Kara Walker lithographs.

“If you ever want to move 100-year-old printing equipment to an art fair,” noted Arion’s lead printer and creative director Blake Riley with a laugh, “call Stanlee.”

Bountiful McCalls food stations (including mini lamb chops and petite handmade tamales) and bars occupied a breezy corner lounge, which opened onto the pavilion’s outdoor promenade, where more dining and drink options made for FOG’s hottest spots. Meanwhile, the weather turned almost tropical as a juicy orange Wolf Moon shimmered over the Bay.

“COVID has been a dark, contemplative time. And, tragic. But art is powerful and unifying: Being here, supporting SFMOMA, is inspiring,” said Leo Villareal, his Bay Bridge installation, The Bay Lights, dazzling in the background. “COVID also focused our lives and work. What do we really care about? I’m in the midst of a reset: distilling shared, universal connections — a beautiful sunset, this bay’s shifting tides — to create works that elicit joy and feelings of awe.”

Among the participating gallerists at FOG were Marian Goodman Gallery (New York), Kurimanzutto (Mexico City) and White Cube (London) as well as local stalwarts like Ratio 3, Fraenkel Gallery, Lebreton, Crown Point Press, Jessica Silverman, Park Life and “dueling” Berggruens. In a fair first, storied San Francisco gallerist John Berggruen shared a booth with his son Alexander’s eponymous New York gallery. “This is my first-ever art fair,” said the latter, “and I’m very happy to share the experience and a booth with my dad.”

“He should be happy; I’m paying for it,” teased Dad. “I’m very proud of Alex, but I’ll admit feeling a bit competitive. I represent old-time classics. Alex represents wonderful midcareer, emerging artists, such as Hulda Guzmán, many of whom I didn’t know. Now I’m one of Alex’s best clients for my own collection!”

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