“One Into Two” (2016, plaster), 10 inches by 17 inches by 5 inches, by Zarouhie Abdalian.
Photo: Courtesy of Zarouhie Abdalian
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“Have You Seen my Language” (2016), by Matt Keegan.
Photo: Courtesy of Matt Keegan
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“Agathla Peak Hough Transformation; Haar” (2018, silver gelatin LE print), 152.4 centimeters by 121.9 centimeters, by Trevor Paglen.
Photo: Courtesy of Trevor Paglen
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“The Fawn” (2018, graphite, chalk, ink and casein on fawn rage paper dyed with acrylic ink), by Koak.
Photo: Courtesy of Koak
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“We Are the Center for Curatorial Studies” (2016), installation view, by Matt Keegan.
Photo: By Chris Kendall Courtesy of Matt Keegan, CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson
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“C.Ar.D. Cutout (Rose)” (2016, powder-coated laser-cut steel), 76.2 centimeters by 58.4 centimeters, by Matt Keegan.
Photo: Courtesy of Matt Keegan
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Gallerist Claudia Altman-Siegel.
Photo: The Morrisons
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When she opened Altman Siegel Gallery in Downtown San Francisco in January 2009, Claudia Altman-Siegel hoped to fill a void—or two. “San Francisco is a difficult place for an artist to live, both because it’s expensive and there aren’t a lot of galleries here,” she explains. “But it was also important to me to create a pipeline to the international world for artists. I can’t represent everyone, of course, but I can give one more reason for someone to live and stay here.”
In the last decade, the 45-year-old gallerist has helped bring a number of artists to renown, including Trevor Paglen, whose photography and sculpture focus on data collection and surveillance, and Liam Everett, creator of abstract paintings and sculptures—both artists with whom she started working while they were still in graduate school in the Bay Area. Now, notes Altman-Siegel, “both are exhibiting internationally,” with museum shows and “very strong markets for their work. I feel very proud of them.”
Since leaving New York in 2008, Altman-Siegel’s growth as a gallerist can be seen to parallel San Francisco’s rising stature within the larger art world. The city’s latest FOG Design+Art, where she exhibited works by Irish photographer Richard Mosse, is a prime example. FOG “is something really special,” Altman-Siegel says. “The best galleries in the world come and, because it’s so small, it’s even more exciting.” In 2016, when the SFMOMA expansion reopened, Altman-Siegel moved her gallery to a 5,000-square-foot space in the Minnesota Street Project in Dogpatch (“It’s rife with possibility, and it feels much more exciting to me there,” she says), more than doubling its size.
Providing an inclusive platform for all artists, including Oakland’s nonbinary K.r.m. Mooney, who created the most recent context-driven installation at the gallery in January, is another hallmark of Altman-Siegel, who grew up as an “art kid” in Boston and earned a degree in art history from Barnard College in 1995. Notably, she was the only San Francisco gallery owner invited to February’s inaugural Frieze Los Angeles and showcased works by Everett and three women: San Francisco comic artist Koak, L.A. painter Alex Olson, and New Orleans installation artist and sculptor Zarouhie Abdalian.
“My roster is 50 percent women, which I feel pretty proud of, but I don’t want necessarily to be known as a ‘women’s gallery’ because as soon as you put a label on it, everything changes,” Altman-Siegel says. “I want it to feel like any other place, but I happen to work with a lot of women. Women have interesting things to say and are often untapped compared to traditional voices.”
For the gallery’s current show, Use Your Words, featuring photo flashcards and large steel cutouts similar to paper snowflakes, Altman-Siegel brought back one of the first artists on her roster, Matt Keegan. “All of the work that I work with is formally interesting and compelling to look at, but also has some kind of conceptual framework behind it,” says the gallerist, always one to offer a fresh perspective.
Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco