All's Fair

By Seth Combs

(Published in the August 2010 issue)

Ann Berchtold had seen a lot of San Diego art fairs come and go. Then, a few years ago, she traveled to Miami  to check out the city's annual Art Basel contemporary art fair. "Blown away" by the cultural overhaul that had taken place in the ensuing decades since her previous visit (when she used to go there for spring break), she had an epiphany.

"It was a cultural dead zone back then," she says, "and it struck me that San Diego is similar. We're a young, emerging coastal city that hasn't culturally matured completely, but we're on the brink."

Berchtold returned with a mission: To create a contemporary art event in San Diego that not only attracted galleries and artists from all over the world, but also showcased a city that for too long had flown under the radar of art aficionados. She spent two years researching fairs and talking to organizers. Then, last year, she held the first Beyond The Border International Contemporary Art Fair at the Grand Del Mar resort.

"The first year was tough, but if it proved anything, it was that there was an audience for this kind of event," says Berchtold.

For this year, she changed the name of the show, switched locations and assembled a crack team of experts to help make the event even bigger and better. From September 2 through 5, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, the newly knighted Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair will showcase more than 45 galleries and hundreds of emerging artists from all over the world. Now, the fair that has the distinction of really showing the "what's hot" and "what's next" in the visual art world.

"The new location will allow us to be a much broader, city-wide event," Berchtold says. "And being Downtown , it's just a great canvas to be able to interact with MCASD [Museum of Contemporary Art], the SDSU gallery and all the places in Barrio Logan. People can come to the fair for several hours, and then all of these other places are within walking distance, so you can really experience downtown San Diego."

Each gallery and museum at the fair will have a space to show off its wares. Beverly Hills, New York, Japan, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and other prominent cities will be represented. Local participants include Quint Contemporary Art ( La Jolla ), Scott White (Little Italy) and Joseph Bellows Gallery (La Jolla), among others, some of which will showcase art from emerging San Diego talent.

"I feel like the fair is another component to the art world that will help artists here in San Diego," says Heather Martin, a local artist who will be on display at the Luis de Jesus Los Angeles gallery space within the Hilton. "People will come from all over the world to see it, and galleries are bringing artists from all over the world to participate. It helps establish San Diego as a place where there's good art."

Also new this year are the more than two dozen "art labs," which will include collaborative art creation as well as performances from local musicians and dance troupes. Berchtold thinks the event has the potential to become one of the leading West Coast art fairs and hopes that the mounting excitement will help lure other traveling art fairs to San Diego.

"It's a way to get people more excited about collecting art," she says. "I feel if we get people at least excited, once the fair is gone, they'll still be excited and they'll turn to the local art community. That's always been my hope."

Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair
September 2-5, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront
artsandiego-fair.com

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