ArtPad makes splash at The Phoenix Hotel 

click to enlarge FUN ATMOSPHERE: The Phoenix Hotel is the site of ArtPadSF, a fair featuring fine art from dozens of galleries as well as performances, parties - and panels. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • FUN ATMOSPHERE: The Phoenix Hotel is the site of ArtPadSF, a fair featuring fine art from dozens of galleries as well as performances, parties and panels.

Ever feel like you’re not sure what to do at an art gallery reception? Maria Jenson’s got your back. She’s the director of ArtPadSF, an art fair that’s also a four-day pool party beginning today at the Phoenix Hotel in The City.

The idea is to present a cool — but not too cool — sampling of what’s hot in contemporary art in an atmosphere that includes pool activities, synchronized swimmers, dance performances and a Google-inspired lounge.

Jenson has been nervous at art events, too, standing around at receptions in Los Angeles with her husband Kevan, an artist, wondering if her questions about the artwork were valid enough to ask.

“I would go to these events in L.A., and it was more about being cool than looking at art,” she remembers.
Fast forward a few years.

Now that Jenson, who directed theater productions and ran a gallery and art salon from her former home in Venice, is putting the finishing touches on the second annual ArtPadSF, she sounds like a seasoned concierge for the art-reception-challenged.

When people arrive looking unsure where to go, she says, “I’ll hand them an event program and ask them what they’re in the mood for.” She adds, “You don’t want too much control and seriousness. You want some room for excitement and spontaneity.”

The 40-plus participating galleries should provide some of that spontaneity. Coming from as close as the Financial District and as far as New York; Portland, Ore.; or Birmingham, Ala., each will mount its own exhibit in one of the Phoenix’s poolside hotel rooms, emptied of furniture.

Visitors will be able to borrow headphones for a museumlike tour, called the Art Scan Fair Meditation, or join a tour curated on the spot in response to visitors’ individual interests by ArtPadSF’s Associate Director Marianna Stark, publisher of the Stark Guide to Bay Area Art.

Also on the schedule are musical acts such as all-female a cappella group The Loose Interpretations and indie rock band Future Twin.

Jenson points out that despite her plans to throw a great party, the event isn’t all about frivolity. The schedule includes fundraising events for locally based arts organizations.

Today’s opening-night gala benefits the SECA (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art) Award, and a Saturday party benefits Black Rock Arts Foundation.

Other event-within-the-event highlights include a “City Arts & Lectures Pop Up” at 11 a.m. Saturday, a conversation with Leo Villareal. The artist, known for his works made of thousands of computer-controlled LEDs, plans to install an art piece consisting of 25,000 blinking lights on the Bay Bridge later this year.

If it sounds like you’ll be positively swimming in event options, download the ArtPadSF app in advance to help you decide where and when to dive in.

ArtPad SF

  • Where: Phoenix Hotel, 601 Eddy St., S.F
  • When: Noon to 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
  • Admission: $15 to $125
  • Contact:
  • Note: An opening benefit party runs from 8 to 10 p.m. today.

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Kris Vagner

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