Jessica Silverman owns and directs her eponymous gallery in San Francisco, CA.
What drew you to Shannon Finley’s work? How did you meet and decide to represent him?
During my undergraduate days at Otis College, I worked on Michael Ovitz’s art collection. I would often give tours of the art in his office. One visitor was a dealer who worked for a European Gallery and later opened his own space in Berlin. He represented Shannon Finley and told me to check him out. I was immediately entranced by the kaleidoscopic nature of his work and the poetry of his geometric forms. In 2010 I offered him an exhibition after seeing images of his paintings online. When the work arrived, I knew we had made the right decision, and we have represented him ever since.
Your gallery is known for discovering emergent artists. How do you find new talent?
I don’t define emerging by age but by where the artist is in his or her career – their degree of exposure. The gallery’s roster includes artists that range in age from their twenties to their seventies. In November 2013, we presented Amikam Toren’s first solo show in America. He is a British-Israeli artist in his late sixties. We also presented a solo booth of Toren’s work at Frieze New York in May 2014. Since then, there has been tremendous response to his practice. In April 2015, we will present an exciting solo exhibition by the godfather of the Vancouver art scene, Ian Wallace. Other contemporary artists we show are Hugh Scott-Douglas, Dashiell Manley, Hayal Pozanti and Ruairiadh O’Connell, who were all born in the 1980s.
Who are some other artists that we should keep an eye on?
Alongside the gallery program, I also curate shows at fused space, an exhibition space at Yves Behar’s fuseproject, which allows me to invite artists that we do not represent to participate in group or solo exhibitions. Upcoming shows include some great artists to keep an eye on: Lucie Stahl, Cooper Jacoby, Erica Mahinay, Egan Frantz and many more!
How is the San Francisco art scene different from the New York art scene?
San Francisco has a rich history of philanthropy and a lot of support for its museums and arts institutions. Unlike New York, San Francisco also has a lot of new collectors who come from the venture capital and technology sectors.
In 2015, the new Berkeley Art Museum will open and in 2016 the new SFMOMA will open, a museum that will be nearly as large as MOMA, New York. Amidst the rent increases, we are still seeing many thriving artist-run and project spaces including: Et Al, Will Brown, Kadist and Kira Koula.
Can you tell us about your current show with Sean Raspet and upcoming projects?
Sean Raspet’s current solo exhibition Residuals has a fragrance formulation of the gallery in the form of a “scratch n’ sniff” that has been sprayed onto our gallery walls. Visitors have been able to scratch the walls to release the scent. During the show, as scents are released, Raspet will use equipment to capture the smells which he will transform into a cleaning product. This cleaning product will eventually be used to clean the “scratch n’ sniff” off of the walls at the end of the show. It is a groundbreaking show for the artist and takes his work to a new and exciting place.
Our upcoming show with Dashiell Manley is titled “Time seems sometimes to stop” and focuses on the daily and meditative practice of reading a newspaper. With a new series of paintings, Manley focuses on the front page as both a significant marker of time as well as an iconographic symbol of information exchange.
Do you recommend getting an MFA in Curatorial Practice? How did this affect your process?
With most education, you get out of it what you put into it. I really took advantage of the access that my Curatorial Practice MA gave me at the California College of the Arts (CCA). I met great curators and have stayed in touch with many of them. I opened the gallery while still working on my MA at CCA and found that I really benefited from the dialogue I had with teachers and visiting curators, who helped me understand how to develop my programming during the first year.
Do you live with art? What artists are in your personal collection?
Yes! My girlfriend, Sarah Thornton, and I love to live with art. Right now we have many amazing works in our house by artists such as Hugh Scott-Douglas, Lorna Simpson, Julian Hoeber, Strauss Bourque-Lafrance, John Baldessari, Lucie Stahl, Francesca Woodman, and many more.
If you could acquire any work of art in the world for your own personal collection, what would it be?
A couple of artists I always want to collect are R.H. Quaytman and Gabriel Orozco. Recently at Art Basel Miami Beach, a few things I saw and wanted were a sculpture by Simon Denny, a painting by Jaya Howey and a lot of works by David Hammons.