Running a Gallery in San Francisco: Interview with Ken Harman of Hashimoto Contemporary

July 25, 2015

We had an honor to speak with Ken Harman, who is running two major San Francisco-based galleries – Hashimoto Contemporary and Spoke Art Gallery. As every other hub of global contemporary art scene, San Francisco is constantly changing. As we all know, there are dozens of factors that influence the contemporary art scene in one city. Contemporary art, including galleries, local market, museums, artists, isn’t an isolated island that is immune to outside influences. Local financial and economic developments, social and cultural dynamics – all these currents largely influence the position of artists in a city, the perspective of galleries, and contemporary art scene in general. The beautiful city of San Francisco is not an exception. Ken was so kind as to tell us a bit more about new developments in the vivid SF art scene.

Hashimoto Contemporary is a gallery that focuses on contemporary artists coming from different backgrounds. If you like a plurality of artistic expressions and art movements, Hashimoto is the perfect place for you; the gallery does not focus on one single medium or movement. We recently wrote about two great exhibitions at this amazing place: The Summer Group Show at Hashimoto and John Wentz’ Imprints exhibition. Ken also runs Spoke Art Gallery, which is more of a causal gallery, always with interesting programs.

The Position of San Francisco in Global Contemporary Art Scene

WideWalls: As the director of one of the San Francisco most renowned galleries today, how would you describe the position of San Francisco on global contemporary art scene? What does „The City by the Bay“ has to offer to global contemporary art scene?

Ken Harman: Thanks for the kind words, that's very generous of you to say. San Francisco is in a very interesting place right now, tech money is driving artists and galleries out of the area, so regionally speaking it's great for cities like Los Angeles and Portland who are seeing an influx of creatives leaving the Bay. On a global level this area is becoming more attractive to certain high level dealers (Pace Gallery's pop up space in Palo Alto a few months ago is a great example) and also to art fairs which jumped from one or two a couple years ago to three or four last year. The irony that this new money is driving local artists away, but also is inviting to outsider dealers, is an interesting dynamic to say the least.

WideWalls: The U.S. West Coast (L.A., San Franscisco) is known for a large number of amazing galleries that are following the latest trends in the world of contemporary art. Is it difficult to survive in such competitevness?

KH: I feel that in many ways the West Coast can be seen historically as a trend setter more so than a trend follower, however that's certainly arguable. I'd imagine it's difficult to survive as a gallery in any city, no matter which coast.

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