Tremors in the SF art landscape: As one prominent gallery closes, others expand

Charles Desmarais , San Francisco Chronicle, February 4, 2020

Time — and the market — will tell. It may just be something in the air of a new decade, or perhaps it’s tectonic shifts in the landscape of the Bay Area art gallery scene, but some of the region’s major galleries are moving up, while others are moving out.


The first clue was an email from the dealer Adrian Rosenfeld, who last weekwrote, “My gallery will close on Saturday, Feb. 1, at the end of our extraordinary exhibition by Damián Ortega.” Rosenfeld opened his space little more than three years ago. In that time he created a highly visible program, working in partnership with major galleries from across North America, and a refreshingly idiosyncratic space.


Rosenfeld and his partner, Sarah Elsasser, will team up with longtime Bay Area art consultants Mary Zlot and Sabrina Buell of Zlot Buell + Associates to become ZBR Advisors.


In an interview with The Chronicle, Rosenfeld rejected the notion that his gallery is closing because he wasn’t selling art. “The gallery was doing incredibly well as private dealers,” he said. “But what people most wanted from us was our advice. You have a fiduciary duty to your clients in that situation.


“We’re trying to be nimble and adapt to what people were asking of us. Yeah, it’s certainly bittersweet (to close the gallery), but it has allowed us to connect to a larger audience, to work toward building a collecting base in San Francisco.”

He said he has known Zlot and worked with her on projects “since the late ’90s.” He and Buell worked together “for a decade” for the prominent New York dealer Matthew Marks.


Rosenfeld said an up-and-coming nonprofit gallery, Slash, operated now on Minna Street by founder Ana Saygi, will take over his Minnesota Street Project space at 1150 25th St.


At least three other tenants in the Minnesota Street Project complex, which currently houses 13 independently owned and operated art galleries, are also in the midst of substantial change.


The Jenkins Johnson Gallery, founded in 1996, moved in “very quietly” during December from its longtime Sutter Street home, said its founder, Karen Jenkins-Johnson. Though a group exhibition will run through March 2, the gallery is “still gradually moving in,” she told The Chronicle. “The true opening will be March 14,” with the first San Francisco exhibition of the work of sculptor Kahlil Irving, a show that coincides with the presentation of Irving’s work in “Formed and Fired: Contemporary American Ceramics” at the Anderson Collection at Stanford University.


Though Jenkins-Johnson has built a broad program over the years, her gallery is noted for its support of African American art and artists. With the move and recent successes at major art fairs, she said, “I feel like I’ve gotten my stride, developing black collectors and working with curators to get black artists in museum collections.”


Her gallery won the Frieze New York 2019 Stand Prize for its solo presentation of photographs by Ming Smith, whose work is featured prominently in “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” showing now at the de Young. And, after two years on the wait list for Fog Design + Art, she was invited this year and sold works for $175,000 and $300,000. The artists whose work commanded those prices, Jae and Wadsworth Jarrell, were among the leaders of AfriCOBRA, a significant collective of black artists founded in 1968. They will be featured in a JJG exhibition to open May 16.