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Curator Micah Lebrun with works by Jhina Alvarado ($350-$2,000) at 111 Minna Gallery
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Party Pictures


Photos by Sherry Wong
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San Francisco jumped into the art-fair game with all three feet last week, hosting two competing commercial fairs, the San Francisco Fine Art Fair and Art MRKT, and even making room for ArtPadSF, an alternative fair, all running May 17-20, 2012.

ArtPad, now in its second year, returned to co-founder Chip Conley's Phoenix hotel, a boutique venue located in San Francisco’s tenderloin district, an area better known as a place to avoid. Despite its small size, ArtPad threw some of the better parties during what was popularly known, at least in more irreverent quarters, as SFart Week. The ArtPad vernissage was the place to be on Thursday night (at least before sneaking into the Asian Art Museum, which also had a do), and the next evening the fair hosted a benefit for the Black Rock Arts Foundation, a guaranteed good time. Black Rock is a local nonprofit founded in 2001 that brings the Burning Man ethos to public art.

ArtPad presented about 40 galleries, including a few non-Bay Area visitors like Mark Moore from Los Angeles and Lyons Wier from New York. Among the special panel discussions was one featuring Leo Villareal, talking about his upcoming LED installation on the Bay Bridge, and Berkeley Art Museum director Larry Rinder on “institutional missions.”

As a New York expat myself, I couldn’t help but compare the fledgling S.F. art scene to the one in New York. Dealer Jack Hanley's presence was much missed at the fair, as the former S.F. guitar man is now a New Yorker. My efforts to lure New Yorkers to the West Coast paid off when I baited Murat Orozobekov of Winkleman Gallery with promises of German beer chalets hidden in Muir woods, much to the chagrin of his partner Ed Winkleman.

Although the question remains as to whether San Francisco has much of a collector base, the town certainly has enough artists and galleries, as was clearly seen in the overwhelming spirit of camaraderie among the locals. One thing missing, however, was the air kisses. Could this be unique to the San Francisco art world?

Captions identifying couples and groups of people should be read left to right.

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