artMRKT’s Max Fishko on digital sculptures, Muhammad Ali, and starting an art collection.

Thursday, May 16, marks the beginning of a highly anticipated weekend of art fairs in San Francisco. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is proud to be the beneficiary of artMRKT San Francisco’s opening-night preview reception. The show attracts both new and seasoned collectors with displays by more than 70 established and up-and-coming galleries from around the country. This year’s artMRKT events take place at Fort Mason from Thursday, May 16, through Sunday, May 19.

ArtPoint was fortunate to catch artMRKT director and founder Max Fishko for a little Q&A.

ArtPoint: Please tell us a little about your background in the world of fine art and what prompted you to start artMRKT.

Max Fishko: I was born into a family of art dealers; my grandmother opened a gallery in 1961. As a kid, art fairs were very exciting in contrast to the quiet gallery setting. I got my first job working at an art fair at the age of 14, and I’ve worked at fairs all over the world since that time, including in Europe. Based on these experiences, I decided to start artMRKT in 2010. I wanted to create a network of shows capable of providing a high-quality experience for both galleries and visitors. When shows become too large, it can be intimidating for the viewer. Our model is to host small fairs so that we maintain a sense of intimacy. Although it’s been challenging to figure out how to make this model sustainable, it has been working!

AP: artMRKT is described as a “boutique, edited experience.” How do you accomplish that, and what is your main focus?

MF: We want to present the art world to people in an accessible, inviting way so that guests can meander amongst the works and decide which way they want to go. This is an intentionally different approach than that taken by museums, where the visitors’ path is almost mandated. Of course we are attentive to which galleries and artworks play well together, but the choice is not forced. It’s a relaxed, fun, choose-your-own-adventure type of experience.

AP: artMRKT Productions runs four fairs across the nation annually. What makes San Francisco unique among your other three locations, in the Hamptons, Houston, and Miami?

MF: San Francisco is unique for many reasons. The preponderance of work actually made in San Francisco is higher than anywhere else. In addition, there is this remarkable convergence of art and technology. There is a huge focus on technology in the Bay Area, and we have been able to tap into this with some of the installations and commissioned projects on view at this year’s fair. For instance, Datagrove, presented by ZERO1, translates local trending Twitter feeds into shifting patterns and intensities of light and sound, creating a type of “digital sculpture.” We will also be hosting a number of talks over the weekend on the crossover between art and technology, featuring dealers, artists, and professionals working in the industry. (Read more about programming and events here.)

AP: Can you please speak to the educational programming that guests can expect throughout the weekend?

MF: We are thrilled with the programming this year, including a more robust partnership with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and an expanded lecture series. I’m really looking forward to Saturday’s talk on David Hockney by Deputy Director Richard Benefield—we’re honored to count someone of his stature among our presenters. And then a panel discussion on Gordon Parks, one of my favorite artists, moderated by Julian Cox, Founding Curator of Photography and Chief Administrative Curator. Parks would have turned 100 last year—I’m obsessed with his photos of Muhammad Ali. We close out the weekend with a talk on Richard Diebenkorn by Emma Acker, Assistant Curator of American Art, on Sunday. Diebenkorn is synonymous with the San Francisco Bay Area, and I’m sure this lecture will be a highlight of the fair.

AP: Why the move from the Concourse Exhibition Center, where artMRKT San Francisco was held in years past, to Fort Mason?

MF: We are able to accommodate more large-scale installations at Fort Mason. In addition, we are hoping to create a more comfortable experience for guests. Last year’s turnout was tremendous, so we’re accounting for that.

AP: Any advice for new collectors?

MF: Yes. First of all, any dealer worth his or her salt will give buyers an option for a payment plan. Most new collectors cannot afford things out of pocket, whereas making smaller, monthly payments can be a viable option. In addition, it’s important to talk to art dealers about what’s going on with a particular artist. Don’t be intimidated! Dealers are here to educate the public, create interest, and raise awareness. If a particular artwork sparks your interest, speak with the dealer. Whether or not you decide to buy, it’s still an opportunity to learn from some very educated, passionate people, and one that should not be passed up.