Art San Diego brings ‘New Art City’ show to Balboa Park

‘A Fair Sign’ introduces an interactive installation by UCSD grad students in Visual Arts. K. Clark, E. Grenadier, H. Spriggs.

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

For over 15 years, Del Mar resident Ann Berchtold has been making a difference on the local art scene, most notably by creating Art San Diego, a contemporary art fair that may someday rival Miami’s Art Basel.

The first ASD, in 2009, was at the Grand Del Mar. The next two settled in at the Bayfront Hilton. This year, Balboa Park is the place, and the venue itself is a work of art: the Balboa Park Activity Center, a fine-looking building designed by acclaimed local architect Rob Quigley and virtually unknown to all but indoor badminton and ping pong players.

The 38,000-square-foot gymnasium will be transformed into New Art City, a showcase and marketplace for about 400 artists and 60 galleries, museums, and university art departments, Sept. 6-9.

“I just love this venue,” Berchtold said. “It’s such a great canvas for the fair. But we have to bring in everything — electrical wiring, catering kitchen, everything!”

Ann BerchtoldShe’s had lots of experience in event production, so the enormity of the project doesn’t faze her. And she’ll have a time-lapse camera documenting the process, from buildup to breakdown, which could be the start of a future exhibit.

The fair’s theme, she says, is “hyper-local meets international,” so there will be a mix of top local art-dealers, like La Jolla’s Scott White, Mark Quint, R.B. Stevenson, Alexander Salazar, and J.M. Tasende, along with galleries from Argentina, Australia, Mexico, and Korea, and a special exhibition called “Vision China,” presented by the Cultural Media Group of China.

New Art City will feature four districts: Contemporary Art, Contemporary Furniture & Products, Midcentury Modern Art, and Solo Artists’ Booths. There will be emerging artists from Los Angeles and Tijuana, and an interactive, multi-disciplinary installation by UCSD MFA candidates that connects the current Art Fair to the 1915 California-Panama Exposition for which Balboa Park was created.

There will also be art and design talks, a Saturday evening wine-tasting, and a Sunday “Bird Project” for kids, giving them a chance to collaborate with artists on bird cards.

“I go to about 20 art fairs every year to learn new things, but the formats are really all the same,” Berchtold said. “So I’m no longer looking for a model. I want to play with the format, make it more of an experience, give locals something different every year so they’ll keep on returning. My big dream is to bring in multimedia performances, too.”

Maybe for Balboa Park’s Centennial in 2015?

But first, there’s ASD 2012, which kicks off with an Opening Night VIP preview party benefitting MCASD, with appetizers by Giuseppe Fine Catering, well known to La Jollans who frequent the Museum Café.

So far, Berchtold said, fair attendance has doubled each year, with more than 8,000 guests in 2011. This year’s event should be bigger and better than ever, and you can combine it with a walk in the park.