Talk to just about anyone in the art world, and they’ll tell you San Francisco gallerist Jessica Silverman never stops hustling. Wherever she is in the world—whether it’s a work day at the gallery, the middle of an art fair, or on vacation in Hawaii—she’s tapping away at her phone, emailing the artists, collectors, curators, and journalists who all need something from her.
For Silverman, there’s little distinction between work and life—but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The thing is, I like what I do. It’s so much a part of who I am,” Silverman said, sunken into a green velvet couch in the back of her Ellis Street gallery. “I was sitting by the pool yesterday, but I was emailing. But it doesn’t bother me!”
As the gallery celebrates its 10th year, Silverman, 35, and those around her cite her work ethic as a key factor behind her success. It combines with her intuitive grasp of contemporary art, which took root early on as a child in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. A frequent visitor to her grandparents’ famed
art collection (which now mostly resides
at the Museum of Modern Art
, the Israel Museum, and the Detroit Institute of the Arts), she grew up poking her digits into artist ’s
finger boxes and admiring ’s
bronze dildo. That triptych of hard work, business instincts gleaned from her family’s real estate background, and artistic precocity has made her one of the art world’s most visible figures on the West Coast, and increasingly internationally.
“The superpower is that she works incredibly hard, and can talk to anyone, but she also has this really deep, in-her-DNA art historical understanding,” said
, a Los Angeles–based artist who met Silverman when she was an undergraduate art student at the Otis College of Art and Design. He had been invited to guest-critique her senior project—a hanging of other students’ work—which he remembers as a clear sign of where her career was going.
“She was couching it in
language—that she was making the images she wanted to make by organizing other people’s images—but I thought, ‘You’re going to be a curator or dealer,’” Hoeber said. “I didn’t say it then, but it seemed so obvious to me at the moment.”