In this interview, Karline Moeller sits down with Ray Beldner, co-founder of the stARTup Art Fair. We wanted to ask him why he started this artist run fair, what motivated him to do so, and how it is going. stARTup’s next edition is in San Francisco at the end of April and Art Frankly has teamed up with Ray and the Fair to help spread the word and bring more great art to people around the world.

When and why did you start stARTup Art Fair?

In 2014, after 15 years of exhibiting my artwork in galleries in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, I found myself without gallery representation because my galleries had either closed, retired or moved. I was looking for a way to get my artwork in front of the kind of art fair audience that my dealers used to do for me. I guess I felt done with galleries and I wanted to represent myself at a fair, but there weren’t any good artist fairs in the US where I could take my work to. I talked with a lot of artists about the changing landscape of the artworld and most of them said they thought the time was right for a serious independent artists fair. Not a “pay of play” art fair with umbrellas in the park, but an honest to god, well vetted, high-minded fair like the Armory, Frieze, or more accurately, Aqua Miami.

Now when I asked any of them, would they like to help me launch it, they all turned me down! Except my friend Steve Zavaterro, who used to own a gallery in San Francisco. He was excited as I was and we became partners.

When did you see the need to expand the fair?

The response to our first fair in 2015 was so overwhelmingly positive that we realized pretty quickly that this was a model that we could take to other cities. So the next year we expanded to Los Angeles and Chicago and now we’re considering another couple of cities to add to the roster.

What makes stARTup different than other fairs?

Good question. There are so many things that set us apart from other artist fairs. The first thing is that we are juried. Each fair has 6 art professionals who select artists: 2 curators, 2 gallerists, and 2 well known artists. Here’s a small sampling if the jurors who have worked with us:


Janet Bishop Chief Curator, San Francisco MOMA

Dan Cameron Former Chief Curator, Orange County Museum of Art, Los Angeles

Renny Pritikin Chief Curator, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco

Max Presneill Director/Curator, Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles


Trish Bransten Director, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco

Michelle Papillion Founder, PAPILLION, Los Angeles

Monique Meloche, Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Edward Winkleman Gallery, Co-Founder, Moving Image Art Fair, New York


Diana Al-Hadid, renowned mixed media and installation artist, New York, NY

Hank Willis Thomas, Conceptual artist, New York

Michelle Grabner, Conceptual artist and curator, 2016 Portland Biennial, Chicago

Hung Liu, San Francisco-based artist and Professor Emeritus, Mills College, San Francisco

The next thing that differentiates us is that we do not take a percentage of art sale at the fairs. Artists keep 100% of the sale proceeds from their work.

Important for artists to know is that we are cheaper per square foot than any other fairs. In addition, the value you get with a hotel fair is better than a booth fair because the artists can stay in the room, saving the costs of housing during the fair.

We are high touch. We offer very comprehensive hands-on pre, and post-fair guidance to our artists, helping them with sales strategies, promotion, marketing tips, follow up, etc. We work hard at each fair to connect our artists to curators, dealers, art consultants and art buyers. In addition, we produce monthly events such as pop-up exhibitions, art consultancy projects, panels and workshops that continue and deepen the relationship with our artists.

Have you encountered resistance from galleries for your approach with stARTup?

Not that I’m aware of. Many galleries come to our fair to “shop” for artists and many have ended up with shows and gallery representation.

stARTup is of great service to artists – can you share with us a memorable moment?

There are so many! Well, just this past fair—stARTup LA in January—we had a printmaker from Mexico City, Abraham Mascarro, who was not only a visitor favorite but he hit it off with many other artists, particularly the other printmakers. He and Eric Rewitzer of San Francisco are now doing mini residencies in each other’s studios, making prints with each other and creating a kind of grass roots cultural exchange! That kind of stuff happens all the time.

Are there any particular trends you have noticed emerging in artists today? How many artists use new digital forms and methods?

Yes, there are definitely trends towards less traditional, digital work. In the past few fairs we’ve had artists showing generative digital projections, small video sculptures, video projections, and digitally-generated photography. Granted, the majority of the work at the fair is painting, drawing and prints, but we also show less traditional artwork through our Special Projects program where we invite artists to display art in the common outdoor areas of the hotel. In that way, we can host artists doing non-traditional work that isn’t often seen at an art fairs, like performance art, social practices, video projections and large-scale installations.

How do you see technology influencing the art world today?

Oh my god, it has infiltrated almost everything artists do, from idea generation to artwork production. Even the most traditional of painters uses google images for source material which goes to show you how casual and ubiquitous the use of technology is with artists. Then there’s all kinds of ways that technology has enabled artists to make their work, from inexpensive 3D printing, to advance digital printmaking technologies which allow artists to print photo-based images on everything from paper, glass and metal to irregular and organic surfaces like pieces of rough driftwood and rocks.

In addition, the way we do business as artists has changed radically with the kind of online digital tools that are available now as well as the platforms to view, compare and buy art. So many artists are rejecting even simple websites in favor of putting their artwork online on Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram, where many artists are selling their work these days.

Lastly, how can one apply for stARTup art fair?

Another good question!

It’s easy: just get on our mailing list and we’ll notify you of upcoming calls for submissions.

Right now, we are getting ready to open the fourth edition of stARTup San Francisco, April 27-29, 2018, but we are also accepting applications for stARTup Los Angeles 2019. Here’s the link:



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