Mid-May is one helluva packed time in the cultural and artistic life of San Francisco. For one, there’s what has become the de facto San Francisco art fair weekend, when the stimulating eye candy of ArtPadSF, artMRKT, and the SF Fine Arts Fair have all dogpiled onto the same weekend.
This year, the SF Fine Arts Fair officially bowed out of the scene, announcing on its website:
In response to the confusion and conflict caused by having three art fairs the exact same time in San Francisco, we have decided not to produce the 4th annual San Francisco Fine Art fair at Fort Mason, in May 2013. We feel that it is not in the best interest of the SF arts community to have simultaneously run similar fairs.
Instead, along with the two remaining spring art fairs — ArtPadSF and artMRKT — we also get the San Francisco Art Institute’s MFA graduate exhibit and Maker Faire Bay Area, and to top it all off, Sunday’s 102nd Bay to Breakers.
Luckily, most of the weekend’s events are multi-day affairs, allowing you the freedom of either immersing yourself fully in one experience or sampling the cornucopia. Below, we’ve compiled a guide with the deets for each event, along with our recommendations.
ArtPadSF Thursday, May 16 – Sunday, May 19 The Phoenix Hotel You don’t need to be an art collector to revel in ArtPadSF, just an art appreciator. Started two years ago by Chip Conley (who is the founder of California’s largest boutique hotel group, Joie de Vivre Hospitality), ArtPadSF has already made a name for itself as a thoroughly contemporary art fair that reflects Conley’s enthusiastic love of art and good causes — and also of having a good time; the last two years’ ArtPadSF fairs have featured a distinctly Burning Man-esque party atmosphere and ethereal water performances in the Phoenix Hotel’s illuminated outdoor pool. This year’s fair promises more of the same, along with video and sound installations, intriguing panel discussions, and live performance throughout the three days. — Bonnie Chan
Our recommendations: The opening night party on May 16 presents an opportunity to see all of the exhibited artwork plus many of the fair’s highlights rolled up into one jam-packed, brightly illuminated evening: the third annual performance by synchronized swim team Tsunami Synchro; “conceptual concessions” served up by Thought for Food; synthpop and chillwave courtesy Altars; an outdoor video installation by Andrew Benson; and, fetchingly, a rare class taught by the Locksmithing Graduate Institute, in which students will be taught to “restrain, reprimand, reward, and free themselves.” Use the discount code ARTPADSFFRIENDS to get 50% off entry to the fair.
artMRKT Thursday, May 16 – Sunday, May 19 Fort Mason Center’s Festival Pavilion Those who steer clear of most SF art fairs due to fear of granola-borne pathogens or hordes of expensive hemp-and-Himalayan-lambswool hoodies will find sophisticated solace at artMRKT. Opening with a deluxe preview gala benefiting San Francisco’s de Young and Legion of Honor museums, artMRKT unites over 70 fine art galleries from all over the country. The three-day fair features works both conventional and bizarre — from vibrant but straightforward representations of watering cans, chandeliers, labia, and skyscrapers, to mutant mobiles made of foam and sequins. Whether your aim is to acquire a work by some hitherto-unknown 21st-century Picasso, rub elbows with the art elite, or simply inject a little culture into your weekend, you’ll find artMRKT a breath of fresh (and elegant) air. — Meg Hurtado
Our recommendations: Attend as many of the discussions as you can, all of which are open to fair attendees. This year’s discussions address the work of pop artist David Hockney and iconic photojournalist Gordon Parks, the role of the city in promoting digital arts, and more.
Ingrid V. Wells, “I Didn’t Win a Big Trophy”
Currency: SFAI’s MFA Graduate Exhibit Thursday, May 16 – Sunday, May 19 The Old Mint The San Francisco Art Institute’s MFA program has produced legions of fine artists, and this year’s graduating class of 100 promises more top-shelf work from one of the finest schools in the country. To celebrate the blood, paint thinner, and pixels shed in the name of creativity, SFAI presents its annual graduate student exhibit. This year’s exhibit is called Currency and is, fittingly, on display in the glorious chambers of The Old Mint. Also consider investing in the exhibition’s Gala Vernissage Preview Party for an exclusive sneak peek and VIP treats. — Joanna Swan
Our recommendations: This year’s graduating class presents as diverse an artistic vision as ever, with explorations into every corner of the world and human psyche. In particular, standouts include Ingrid V. Wells’ recent work based on the American “reality” of Honey Boo Boo. And Elizabeth Caynes’ striking new genre work is, as she describes it, “shit [that] takes a long, tedious look at how people design, use, consume, and dispose of things.”
Maker Faire Bay Area Saturday, May 18 – Sunday, May 19 San Mateo County Event Center In the eight years since its inception, the Maker Faire has exploded into the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth” and a flagship event of the DIY revolution. This weekend, thousands of makers offer up over 900 maker exhibits featuring handmade crafts and science projects to shock and awe the general public and fellow hackers. Marvel at a DeLorean Hovercraft, take a turn crushing things with a giant robot hand, build a castle out of Popsicle sticks, play laser tag with 1/6 scale tanks, and hug the ten-foot needle felted Woolbuddy Dinosaur. In short, make a day (or a full weekend) of Maker Faire and see exactly what a resourceful tinkerer can do with a bucket, a glue gun, and a ball of string. — Bonnie Chan
Our recommendations: We wouldn’t know where to begin recommending specifics among 900 exhibitor booths. Instead, we’ll leave you to wander the sensory wonderland of the faire, which is both a journey and a destination unto itself. For a somewhat greater sense of direction, you can download the official Maker Faire app, which provides a complete faire guide and real-time updates.
102nd Annual Bay to Breakers Sunday, May 19 Starting at Howard and Main Streets It seems that many of San Francisco’s quirky cultural traditions are traceable to the 1906 earthquake, and Bay to Breakers can be included on that list. Started in 1912 in an effort to raise the morale of the citizenry during post-quake reconstruction, the 7.5-mile Cross-City Run (which became Bay to Breakers in 1964) is one of the longest-running footraces in the world — and in 1986, it also became the largest footrace in the world, topping out at 110,000 zany participants… many of whom were registered runners, and more of whom were unregistered revelers wearing costumes and/or pulling wagons filled with booze. Today, mingle with crowds of Elvises, human centipedes, salmon running upstream, pro runners, and nudists alike as you run, walk, or stumble across the city, from the Embarcadero to Ocean Beach. The race begins with the traditional tortilla toss and ends with the traditional Foostock post-race party. — Bonnie Chan
Our recommendations: Wear comfortable footwear (it is 12K, after all) and as outré of a getup as you can muster, especially if that getup is coordinated with a larger group of friends. Stay hydrated. Toss all expectations and assumptions to the wind. And toss that tortilla with pride.