Initial Offerings

New fairs and galleries point to Silicon Valley as the next great art market.

Last October, art dealers were gearing up for the world’s newest high-profile show, Art Silicon Valley San Francisco. Seventy galleries from New York to Beijing were in attendance, and the usual suspects—Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, and Jeff Koons, to name a few—were up for grabs. Rumors swirled that new pieces by the famed street artist Banksy would also be unveiled. But as the four-day fair commenced, it was clear that the attendees were the biggest news. Young, wealthy, and for the most part completely new to the art market, the visitors made for an unusually green audience in the world circuit of art collectors.

If history is any indication, Silicon Valley may soon become the next great art market. The past has shown that, when a great deal of wealth builds up in one place—as it has in this technology hub just outside of San Francisco—sooner or later it yields a crop of elite art collectors. With the debut of Art Silicon Valley San Francisco, along with other new fairs and galleries, it appears that such an emergence is already underway.

Art Silicon Valley San Francisco is the brainchild of Nick Korniloff, director of Art Miami, a contemporary art fair that regularly draws upwards of 125 international galleries and 80,000 attendees. Korniloff has also spearheaded new fairs in New York City and the Hamptons, and additional shows in Miami. His latest offshoot, however, captures a new demographic. “We were seeing some of the big tech and media people coming to our fairs in Miami in December,” he says. “[There was] an eagerness to connect to the tech sector. Our position is to belong, be out there, and continue to cultivate.”

Korniloff is not alone in his quest to cultivate Silicon Valley’s creative culture. Last year the area saw the debut of another fair, Silicon Valley Contemporary, as well as the opening of a Pace gallery. The former, which drew 6,600 attendees over four days, turned heads by closing a deal in bitcoins, with the sale of Dana Louise Kirkpatrick’s Off Limits but Blessed by the Fed for 40 units of the digital currency (roughly $10,000). The Pace outpost, located in Menlo Park, opened in April in a former Tesla car dealership. 

Art Silicon Valley San Francisco will stage its second show from October 8 through 11 at the San Mateo Event Center. (Silicon Valley Contemporary is expected to return next year as a biennial.) Though the show will remain international in scope, Korniloff has reduced its exhibitor list to 55 galleries in order to “keep the quality high and make sure the audience is in balance with the size of the show.” Still, he is confident that Silicon Valley’s art scene will see steady growth: “Great fairs don’t happen overnight. [But] in my opinion, there will be a handful of individuals in the tech sector . . . who will embrace the arts in a huge way.”  

Art Silicon Valley San Francisco, artsvfair.com; Pace Menlo Park, pacegallery.com

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