The new Silicon Valley Contemporary art fair at the San Jose Convention Center
Could Silicon Valley Contemporary Be the Next Art Basel?
By Andrew M. Goldstein via ArtSpace
April 12, 2014
The answer is yes and no. Let's begin with why Silicon Valley Contemporary could be a success.
The obvious allure for creating this new fair, and for the 50-some participating galleries to buy in for its first year, is that the tech sphere headquartered in Silicon Valley is generating more wealth more quickly than anywhere else in the world. The nouveau riche of Google, Apple, Facebook, Adobe, and the other industry titans in the area—what Valleywag's Sam Biddle has termed "our coddled new overclass"—have lent the San Jose area a few attention-grabbing distinctions: more patents are filed here per capita than anywhere else in the United States (the government opened a patent office in the city so developers wouldn't have to trek to D.C.), six of the 10 most expensive communities in the country to buy homes are here, and 75 percent of the region's Fortune 500 companies are within 15 miles of the San Jose Convention Center, where the fair took place.
There are other factors at play. The convention center is enormous, sleek, and appealing, superior to the venues available in New York or Miami, and will in fact host the events surrounding the Super Bowl when it comes to neighboring Santa Clara in 2016. The weather is lovely and pacific. There are abundant hotels and restaurants but not a lot else going on culturally, making it perfectly suited to being a trade town. But above all, art dealers are ravenous to tap into this rising class of monied tech industrialists, knowing full well that they are the most significant contenders for being the patrons of tomorrow.
"I think this first fair will inspire people in the area and motivate them to catch the fever for contemporary art," said Rick Friedman, founding director of the fair and head of the Hamptons Expo Group. "We realize this is just the beginning and that we're getting in on the ground floor, so there has to be a learning curve. We're trying to put on an educational program here. But these people are very smart."
So, that is the thinking behind what one New York artist has termed "Nerd Basel." But the only problem is that "these people"—the much-vaunted tech gajillionaire hypothetically interested in collecting art—are a mysterious breed indeed, and dealers are uncertain how to approach them. There were multiple strategies in evidence at the fair.
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It has been my experience that the younger generation is much more dedicated to the visual arts and much more cultural savvy then say my generation. I learned of their knowledge and interest when my gallery in Fort Lauderdale would fill up with college kids every spring break. Remembering the spring break priorities of my generation and how visits to an art gallery were not even on the list it amazed me every year, how thoughtful they were.
It has also been my experience working for a tech company that many do value the arts. At the executive level the arts play an important roll the quality of life decisions that a company makes.
There sure is plenty of money in Silicon Valley. With a population that is design and esthetically minded, a thriving arts scene with a large successful arts fair should be a no brainer. GL