Latest to Be Displaced in San Francisco’s Tech Boom: Art Galleries

77 Geary Street, home of several art galleries displaced by a technology firm. (Google Maps)
77 Geary Street, home of several art galleries displaced by a technology firm. (Google Maps)
The impact of the technology business on soaring residential real estate prices in San Francisco has gotten lots of attention during the past year. But the tech boom also is one factor driving a sharp rise in commercial real estate in the city and, now, is displacing a handful of long-established downtown art galleries.

Several galleries on the second floor of 77 Geary St. were notified in January they’d have to leave space some of them have occupied for decades to make room for a tech tenant.

Trish Bransten, director of the Rena Bransten Gallery, said the galleries got an eviction notice effective Valentine’s Day. The reason: the software and consulting firm Mulesoft, which began renting space in the building several years ago, is taking over most of the floor. Bransten says Mulesoft is offering more than double the rent for her space, which the gallery has occupied for 27 years.

George Krevsky, proprietory of a neighboring gallery, said he was leaving the building after 22 years. He said he’d informed clients that “with the impact of the tech industry on downtown real estate it doesn’t really make sense for us to continue to operate a retail art gallery in this environment.”

Krevsky said the rent increases are just one technology-related factor bringing upheaval to galleries:

“We’re not getting the kind of traditional art gallery-goers. I think the culture has changed, the impact of the Internet, the impact of websites. The whole culture of fine art and this being documents that reflect the history of the 20th and 21st century fine art, it’s something that’s thousands of years old. And the fact that young people come in and think that all of this can be created with the push of a button on a cellphone is beyond me. …

“… I have believed strongly for many years that you need to see the art, look at the art, to be in front of the art, and to have a relationship with someone that interprets the art to you, that understands where the artist is in art history, and where the art market stands. And I think those kinds of relationships — you’re not seeing human relationships as much, you see social networks — but human relationships between like-minded individuals that are passionate about, in this case art, I think that’s sadly missing.”

Krevsky says he’ll run his business by appointment from his home in Oakland. The Rena Bransten Gallery is moving to a temporary space on Market Street above Van Ness Avenue.

Trish Bransten said she didn’t think her gallery’s departure from the building is “an evil landlord, evil tech company problem,” but says she’s concerned that something’s being lost as the small community of galleries she’s been a part of is dispersed.

I think what’s being lost is a center. … It’s a place for artists and audience to go and look at work and see what’s happening now. Not necessarily what’s made it to SFMOMA, but sort of what is either in the Bay Area or a particular slice of a program that a gallery champions. The fact that these galleries are being atomized across the city removes that kind of nexus. It doesn’t mean it’s terrible. It means that both the audience and the buyers are going to have to adjust. What I really worry about is, are we going to lose a lot of galleries in the process.

Neither the landlord at 77 Geary St. nor Mulesoft replied to our requests for comment. This post contains reporting from Cy Musiker of KQED News.

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  • http://www.SaatchiArt.com/CharlesValoroso Charles Valoroso

    Inner Oaktown Underground has been the spawning a thriving art community for the past ten years. Silicon Valley startups are also looking at the East Bay for the next Tech Boom. Artists are a head of the curve….residential loft spaces and artist owned galleries are the wave of the future.

  • Once

    Why are you calling it “displacement” when its really more of a change in demographics. It happens. 20+ years is a good run for a small gallery!

    “We’re not getting the kind of traditional art gallery-goers.”

    “with the impact of the tech industry on downtown real estate it doesn’t really make sense for us to continue to operate a retail art gallery in this environment.”

    Bonus points for trying though.

  • melanie

    One of the traits of urban areas, is that they’re in a constant state of flux. It is a pity, that as a result, there is less of a critical mass for galleries. Perhaps they could ‘band together’ and buy a building, sub-divide it on a ‘condo’ basis and own their spaces for the long term? For fine art to be fully appreciated it really needs to be seen in person. I’m happy to do the purchase transaction over the phone or via the internet, but I really need to see the artwork in person first. If not, then I need to already have met and trust the judgement of the dealer – this comes about through several visits to their gallery over a period of time.

  • David Curiel Serret

    This is both, terrible and terrifying. As you can see, it
    is not only “poor” individuals who are getting displaced in San
    Francisco, even small business!!! If people think that this is good for
    the city, they need to get their facts checked out. The
    tech bubble is a mirage and it is destroying the core of San Francisco.
    If the value of those companies is determined by Wall-street
    shenanigans, it will certainly burst one day. The “wealth” will NOT
    trickle down, don’t get fooled. If places like these cannot compete with what the techs will
    offer, then they are out of the business. Moreover, if professional
    service providers get their rents significantly raised, they have to
    raise what they charge accordingly, thereby losing many clients along
    the way. If this is not destructive to the economic fabric of a society
    and communities, then I don’t know what is.

  • wswdt20

    Some thoughts on the situation in San Francisco, via a detour through Tibet.

    http://sfheavenandearth.wordpress.com

    • BushyHyde

      Wow I have read an article with so many words that says so little. I am not suggesting it’s points don’t have merit, but it was definitely a whimper and not a bang.

  • Inkspots

    San Francisco is all about humanity and art, though both change in form over time. That is something these new arrivals do not understand and clearly care little about. I was in a Mission District tacqueria on a recent Friday night that was packed to the rafters with cheery young hipsters. An excellent mariachi musician came in, trudged through the crowd, and no one even looked at the man much less listened or tossed in a couple bucks for his efforts. It’s like he was TV or something.

  • sebra leaves

    Who do you think is envisioning the new city streets? People who live and breathe virtually. Virtual people living in a corporate bubble don’t need real art, community, clients, or customers. They don’t buy art, they make it to spec.

  • Corey Halliwell

    Returning to the Bay Area after nearly a decade away, one feels like Rip Van Winkle to see the disastrous outcome of an area once renown for its cultural colour and genuinely diverse people. The fun, laughter, and the days when people sat around for hours speaking over coffee, without gazing morosely at their iPads, iPhones or laptops with tech-induced Asperger’s Syndrome, are gone. It is the worst nightmare for someone who once called San Francisco and the Bay Area home, where it was never a status symbol nor ever an atmosphere of entitlement for simply residing here. Like those who miss striking up a conversation with a stranger, who loved the days when the Gold Dust Lounge was in Union Square, and visited the Musee Mechanique when it was at the old Cliff House (before the US Park Service sterilised it to match the rest of the city now), this is no longer home. San Francisco is no longer welcome to those who love history, culture, art and the human touch. After just one year back, this is one more person who will be leaving shortly. Perhaps it may be well and good that those who have recently come to the Bay Area who don’t welcome art nor history and have a collective memory only going back as far as 2005 – one may watch from a distance when economic nature takes its course and 2000-2001 repeats itself shortly.

  • realitysurfer

    I am so glad to have lived in SF in the 80′s…sitting at Cafe La Boheme on 16th street in the mission everyday at 4pm for my espresso and conversation with a diverse group of artists..writers and hustlers….I was taught my fist spanish swear words by an ad salesman for Tiempo latino…the video art scene was amazing…it was like living in another country..

  • http://www.justinthedesigner.com/ Justin The Designer

    It is the landlords fault! And it is MULESOFTS fault! They should both be accountable. Mainly Mulesoft! Its there responsibility to look after the community in which it does business. And to kick out an art gallery of 27 years because you need more office space… WOW! Boycott any company that does this!

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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