- Address: 161 Jessie Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
- Owner/Director: Wendi Norris
Wendi Norris (W): The gallery comprises 5,000 square feet of the ground floor of a historic building located one block from SFMOMA. The space is open, with exposed concrete walls. It has a warm and inviting sense so visitors linger for long periods of time.
W: Though I started my career leading marketing and business development departments in entrepreneurial or fortune 50 tech companies, I’ve always had a personal interest in the arts. I needed something that really held both an intellectual and emotional appeal. I saw an opportunity to distinguish myself in the art world, and an opportunity to connect artists with collectors and vice versa.
W: I have a strong mid-western work ethic and a high standard of professionalism that I instill on my staff. I work with artists or artists’ estates who share my ambition and my desire for success by doing good.
W: Currently, San Francisco is awash with money and the art scene is transforming rapidly with the influx of new galleries and gallery spaces, the re-opening of SFMOMA, a growing base of new collectors, and millions of dollars of public art being commissioned in the next decade and beyond.
We need to do more for the artists in our community, allowing them to live and work comfortably in the midst of all of this opportunity. As an example, I started the San Francisco Artist Award more than five years ago, a juried prize which provides a Bay Area artist with their first solo exhibition in a gallery, including press and sales outreach on behalf of the artist. I initially referred to it as the “please don’t leave San Francisco” award. With the rising cost of living I wanted to be able to help combat that in some small way.
Is there any consistent message, regardless of different shows, that you want your gallery to deliver to visitors?
W: There are certainly common threads running through the gallery program – I’m interested in the intersection of cultures and ideas and how art creates the space for us to have a dialogue around such complex or challenging notions. I also strive to exhibit work that is both aesthetically pleasing and conceptually rich, as one without the other feels incomplete.
W: Formal education is wonderful but it is by no means the sole path towards finding one’s authentic creative voice.
W: Years ago I started exhibiting modern and contemporary artists alongside one another. Many art world insiders (e.g., fair directors, curators, gallery directors) told me that this wasn’t normal or acceptable. At the Armory Show in 2013, I was recognized as one of the top 20 most innovative American galleries. Today, of course, it’s quite the norm with galleries.
W: I don’t look at other galleries for inspiration – it’s all about the artists for me.
W: Galleries provide the fertile ground essential for artists to flourish. Patrons and museums are like the water/nutrients that enable them to grow. Online platforms, art fairs, consultants, and auctions are constantly aiming to disrupt the galleries’ markets. While these lines of business help in the overall development, they aren’t essential. Running a gallery and providing that fertile platform isn’t easy, and I have tremendous amounts of respect for all of my colleagues in the business—those are some of my most treasured relationships.