On Saturday, April 30, at a time when most artists are still soundly asleep, a line of cars and rented box trucks began filling the spaces of the public parking lot outside San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. Instead of early morning joggers, the prime spots went to a plucky crowd of Bay Area artists and instigators, staking out their domains as part of the second annual Parking Lot Art Fair.
Organized by artist Jenny Sharaf the irreverent happening was timed to coincide with a weekend full of big-name commercial and institutional art events — SFMOMA’s Art Bash, Art Market San Francisco, stARTup Art Fair, and the Renegade Craft Fair, to name a few.
“The Parking Lot Art Fair is one special day of the year where we get to celebrate the artists of San Francisco,” Sharaf said. Many of the participants spoke to the warm community atmosphere, in contrast with what many consider the high stakes, high stress ambiance of white wall gallery openings.
The day properly kicked off at 8am with a cry of “Pancakes! Get your pancakes!” Jonn Herschend of THE THING Quarterly, a publication in the form of an object, flipped limited edition pancakes — in batches of 25 — out of the back of his car.
Artists brought both satirical and earnest displays to the gathering, including a nail art salon where Cathy Lu and Brooke Westfall decorated and applied just one acrylic nail per customer. Elsewhere, BONANZA, a collective made up of artists Conrad Guevara, Lindsay Tully and Lana Williams, outfitted volunteer models in clothing from their latest ready-to-wear line: BNNZA, fashion for the busy art world professional. At the parking lot’s entrance, “The Brotherhood,” a cloaked trio of self-described ancient monks, hawked everything from wizard pendants to human teeth to plastic wind-up toys.
As the day progressed, visitors to the more official fairs inside Fort Mason looped slowly through the Parking Lot Art Fair in their cars, visibly annoyed to find all the spots taken. But taking up space and confronting art audiences with real-life artists was part of the event’s underlying and more serious goal.
“You can’t have art without artists,” Sharaf said. “We’re pretty necessary to create culture and make San Francisco a place that you want to live.” — Sarah Hotchkiss