Held up to juggernauts like Basel, the fairs produced by artMRKT Productions, now in New York, Miami, Houston, Seattle, and San Francisco, feel like playful, hip alternatives (see: Williamsburg food trucks shipped out to the Hamptons). But this year, running parallel to artMRKT San Francisco’s fifth outing, a new local effort makes its own outsider debut: the stARTup Art Fair, a showcase for independent artists, which runs from May 1 to 3 at the Hotel del Sol. By allowing artists to represent themselves — and thereby keep 100 percent of their profits — the fair seeks to give a boost to local talent, especially given the current state of the city’s art scene.
San Francisco’s rampant tech gentrification has been at the forefront of the city’s news in the past years, as has its adverse effect on the livelihood of local artists. “As rents go up — driven by the growth of new tech companies looking for space in SF — a number of galleries and artists have been displaced, making it difficult for them to do their own business in the Bay Area,” Ray Beldner, a local artist and one of the fair’s co-founders, explained to us in an e-mail. “As galleries have closed, they have left artists without representatives to bring their work to the art fairs that have become — for better or worse — the main source of art sales and economic support for artists in the last decade. A fair for independent artists, where they interface and reach art fair crowds directly, seemed like the next simple and logical step for artists to regain some control over their economic futures.”