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.