Thursday, May 18, 2006

Crunch of Bay Area MFA Shows (updated!)

Most of the Bay Area’s art studio MFA programs open or close their graduate exhibitions this month. Tomorrow, May 19th, is the last day to see the exhibit of 8 artists at San Francisco State University. The hours are Noon to 4:00 pm. The location is the Fine Arts Building, which is across a walkway from the Creative Arts Building and close to the Student Center. The campus website has a map. The nearest street parking is likely to be on or near Holloway Ave., off 19th Ave.

Saturday, May 20th, is the final day to see the large exhibit at The California College of the Arts (CCA). I’ve been through it twice and can recommend it. The address is 1111 8th St. at the base of Potrero Hill, in San Francisco. Hours are 10:00 am to 7:00 pm daily. Free street parking is generally available nearby.

The final day for UC Berkeley's MFA exhibit is Sunday, May 21st. The show includes 7 artists and takes place at the Berkeley Art Museum. The hours are 11:00 am to 5:00 pm for the remaining 3 days. The address is 2626 Bancroft Way, and there is another entrance at 2621 Durant Ave. Admission fees are spelled out on the museum website. (This is the only MFA exhibit in this list that requires an admission fee—and the only one, so far as I know, that forbids photography.) There is a city parking lot between Channing Way and Durant Ave., west of Telegraph Ave.

San Francisco Art Institute’s large MFA exhibition opens Friday, May 19th, with a reception from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. (Actually they’re calling it a Vernissage. C'est prétentieux, non?) From May 20th to 27th the show will be open daily from Noon to 6:00 pm. The location is the Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason, San Francisco. Fort Mason has large areas for parking; according to the Fort Mason website, parking fees were initiated this month.

The compact MFA exhibit at Mills College (Oakland) will continue through Sunday, May 28th. There is some good work here, as reported here on April 29th. The exhibit is installed at the campus Art Museum, which has variable hours. Directions for getting to Mills via the freeway are posted on the college website. Free parking passes are available at the entry gate.

Finally, Stanford University’s MFA exhibit opened on May 16th and will run through June 18th. There will be a reception on Thursday, May 25th, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. It’s a small show—only 5 artists—but this program has a reputation for quality. The exhibit is presented in the T.W. Stanford Art Gallery. Stanford is located about 30 miles south of San Francisco. The university has an interactive map to help visitors. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. Parking is free after 4:00 pm and all day on weekends.


Lisa Hunter said...

The professionalization of MFA shows is amazing. Admission fees!

How much emphasis is there on sales at West Coast shows (either by collectors buying art or by dealers signing artists at the shows)? On the East Coast, MFA shows are like the floor of the NY Stock Exchange.

Bob said...

The admission fees for the Berkeley show are actually the normal fees for access to the museum where the show is held. I mentioned the fee because a key audience for the show--young artists--tends to be strapped for cash.

I assume there is a commercial overlay to any good MFA exhibition these days. In the Bay Area, this is less raucous than as reported for New York, but it is definitely present. I see quite a few art dealers at the Bay Area MFA shows. They make connections with artists whose work they like. Some of the artists are put in group shows as early as the summer right after graduation.

Sometimes the connections are made even earlier during open studios. Some local MFA candidates already have important dealers, and are shown at major art fairs, during the year prior to graduation.

As for collectors, some of them do buy work from the Bay Area MFA shows. The artists are often happy to sell. At the opening of this year's CCA show, I happened to be looking at one artist's conceptual installation when a local collector walked in, pointed to a little painting, and asked, How much? It can be that blunt. At the Mills College show I liked one artist's work a good deal, so after talking to him about it, I asked if any of his drawings were for sale. The answer was yes, so I bought one. In other years, I have purchased work prior to the MFA show. But these sorts of purchases are rare for me.

I don't see anything wrong with sales by artists or with interest by galleries, provided these things don't raise unrealistic expectations or lead to distortions in the art practice. But anyone who operates in the current art world needs to be aware of pressures that young artists can face, and take care not to overamp the commercial side.

Lisa Hunter said...

I wish MFA shows were staggered, now that they've become destinations for people besides the students' parents. It might also be better for the artists. Less frenzy and a better chance of getting attention.