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Art Fair Relocates To Balboa Park

Above: Pelayo "Pete" Garcia takes measurements in order to hang his paintings at the Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair.

Aired 9/6/12 on KPBS News.

The Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair is the place for galleries and artists to vie for the attention of local art collectors. This is the fourth year for the fair, which has changed locations three times. KPBS arts reporter Angela Carone says the art fair will be held in the city’s cultural heart - Balboa Park - in a little-known building used for competitive badminton.

Dancers from The PGK Project rehearse for the garden performances they'll give on Friday and Saturday night outside the art fair.
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Above: Dancers from The PGK Project rehearse for the garden performances they'll give on Friday and Saturday night outside the art fair.

The Balboa Park Activity Center is an impressive 38,000 square foot gymnasium designed by architect Rob Quigley. Despite the architectural pedigree, it’s not the typical stomping grounds for San Diego’s art mavens.

"Unless you play badminton or ping pong, you really don’t know about this building," says Ann Berchtold, founder and director of the Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair. This year's fair will take place in the Activity Center this weekend.

This is the third location for the fair, which started out at the Grand Del Mar, spent two years at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, and now moves to the city's cultural heart, Balboa Park.

Workers carry crates and tools to their booths to begin installing the artwork for sale at the Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair.
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Above: Workers carry crates and tools to their booths to begin installing the artwork for sale at the Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair.

I visited the center the day before the VIP opening, when exhibitors were busy unloading trucks and installing artwork in their booth spaces. Berchtold says she loves to see it all come together. "This is the big set up day. If you walk in off the street, it seems a bit chaotic, but it's really one of my favorite times."

Workers carry crates of paintings. There are echoes of drills and hammers at work.

It’s also hot. It’s the middle of the day and giant fans are working hard to make up for the lack of air conditioning in the high-ceilinged space. "Luckily the fair gods are with us and the temperature is going to drop seven degrees tonight," says Berchtold. She notes that there's a contingency plan involving air conditioners if it gets too warm.

Attendance at last year’s fair doubled from the year before. This year, Berchtold is hoping to draw close to 10,000 people. "Attendance is great but it really comes down to collectors and buyers. This is a trade show for art and it’s only going to survive if people come buy art."

There will 63 exhibitors, offering artwork at price points from $100 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of San Diego's most esteemed galleries are participating, along with local museums, university art departments and individual artists.

For more details on the participating galleries and this year's theme, "New Art City," check out the U-T's preview of the fair.

The Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair opens to the public tonight with a VIP preview and runs through Sunday.

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