Jessica Silverman's new Tenderloin gallery in its infancy.
Jessica Silverman has a knack for spinning obscurity into greatness. Over the past five years, the 30-year-old Detroit native has made a name for her eponymous gallery on the international art scene by unearthing underappreciated talent and developing a collector base from the ground up. “I like being there first,” she says. “We’re bringing in artists who have no link to San Francisco and don’t already have a support system built for them.” Though her gallery’s 15 artists are commonly described as emerging, she’s vocally anti-ageist. Her youngest artist is 25-year-old Brooklynite Hugh Scott-Douglas, whose work Silverman showed at Art Basel last June; the oldest is septuagenarian Barbara Kasten, a photographer who will have a solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia next year.
This month, Silverman’s unorthodox approach is again apparent with the next phase of the Jessica Silverman Gallery. While a handful of her fellow gallerists jumped east this fall, from downtown to the Potrero Hill strip newly christened Potrero Flats, she has relocated to a 2,800-square-foot corner space—formerly the Arlington Hotel—in the Tenderloin, quadrupling her gallery’s footprint. Chalk it up to youthful enterprise or creative foresight, but her success belies convention.
Silverman launched her original Dogpatch gallery five years ago while simultaneously earning her master’s in the curatorial program at California College of the Arts. “I was totally nuts,” she admits, “but I’ve always been a risk taker. That’s why I work with unknown artists.” Her eye for overlooked talent has earned her a reputation as one to watch at international art shows—a rarity for a Bay Area–based dealer. (Bob Wilms, development director of Mission design showroom the Nwblk, calls her “by and large, the most interesting gallerist in town.”) The new space’s opening exhibition features a series of 71⁄2-by-7-foot paintings made from London Times newsprint pulp by the Israel-born, London-based artist Amikam Toren—his first U.S. show ("Of The Times and Other Historic Works," Nov. 22nd—Jan. 19th).
Jessica Silverman Gallery; 488 Ellis St., at Leavenworth St., 415-255-9508, jessicasilvermangallery.com
Originally published in the December 2013 issue of San Francisco