My team and I regularly debunk assorted myths. Yes, we still operate a physical gallery space, which we call our headquarters. It’s a centrally located and intelligently appointed 1,200-square-foot viewing room and office (the spacious, windowless bathroom is excellent for mounting video works) in San Francisco’s culturally rich Hayes Valley neighborhood.
And yes, we still present exhibitions, four in 2018. We call them “offsites,” and we activate underutilized real estate. No, we didn’t downsize our gallery space due to San Francisco’s soaring rent prices, we are simply diverting some rent expenses elsewhere in order to utilize more distinctive spaces in markets we feel are most relevant for the artist.
For example, our first offsite exhibition in January marked the West Coast debut for Nashville-based, Afro-Cuban artist
in a 6,000-square-foot former military training facility in San Francisco’s Presidio National Park. We received three times the amount of foot traffic than we would have had in my former gallery space, thanks in large part to our extensive outreach to the arts and neighborhood communities. The experience of visiting the exhibition, which one SFMOMA curator stated was akin to a museum show, prompted many attendees to encourage others to attend. And, yes, we have a counter, and we discreetly clicked in each visitor to our exhibitions this year.
In February, we opened a four-week exhibition in Guadalajara, Mexico, for
. Guadalajara’s economy and arts scene are booming, and Julio wanted his fourth exhibition with the gallery to be in his country of origin. We collaborated with local artists and their studios, and led a small group of U.S.-based collectors to events hosted by local collectors and Frieze, with a day of tequila tasting in between.
This new model is not without its challenges. Communications are ever complicated. Our nomadic programming asks a great deal of our audience, at a time when people want everything rapidly delivered to their door or their iPhone. We are asking our audience to stay connected with us so they know where we are going, with which artist, and why they should care. In the past year, our Instagram, Facebook, and mailing list subscribers have increased by 22%, 11%, and 6%, respectively. These are clearly not at a rate commensurate with what we are estimating to be a 200% growth in exhibition attendance, nor a reflection of our sales growth. These numbers tell me we need to do better engaging and educating our virtual community.
In September, we activated the expansive atrium of a retrofitted 150-year-old industrial shipbuilding facility at Pier 70 in San Francisco. My team, along with gallery artist
, designed and built a structure within the massive space, which accentuated the essence of Eric’s paintings, delivering a rarefied art experience. The hundreds of people who visited—many from nearby tech, architecture, and design companies such as Uber, Juul, and Gusto—had very little (if any) interaction with the art world at all prior to our offsite exhibition.