Now in its 10th year, Fog Design+Art has become a Bay Area staple. The visual art and design fair’s January kickoff at Fort Mason Center coincides with SF Art Week, signaling the unofficial start to San Francisco’s art season. To mark the anniversary, festival organizers made this year’s event, which runs Jan. 18-21, a tribute to the city that hosts it.

“Fog Design+Art was initially conceived of as a gift to San Francisco,” said Sarah Wendell Sherrill, co-founder of Lobus, a technology platform for art ownership, and member of Fog’s steering committee since 2019. “Part of our inspiration for this year’s theme [“A Love Letter to San Francisco”] was to show how vibrant the Bay Area art scene is and to highlight its vitality through a showcase of Bay Area galleries and artists throughout the fair, the programming and the activations on site.”

Sherrill, Fog founder Stanlee Gatti and committee coworkers Douglas Durkin, Brittany Pattner and Susan Swig, consistently have focused on highlighting local artists, even as the fair remains open to international talent and exhibitions.

New on the decade anniversary is Fog Focus, an invitational dedicated to work by young and underrepresented artists in Fort Mason’s Gateway Pavilion on Pier 2, the former home of the San Francisco Art Institute, which closed its doors in 2022.

Local entities among the nine exhibitors are Cult Aimee Friberg (San Francisco), Et al. (San Francisco), Johansson Projects (Oakland), Jonathan Carver Moore (San Francisco) and Schlomer Haus Gallery (San Francisco). In addition, José Figueroa, an Oakland artist who draws whimsical map-like illustrations, is Fog’s first ever artist-in-residence.

The Festival Pavilion on Pier 3 hosts 46 exhibitors from Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Berlin, Mexico City, Milan, New York and San Francisco, as well as an immersive entryway designed by Oakland conceptual artist Indira Allegra, who weaves pieces she calls “living structures.”

As in previous years, 10 talks on wide-ranging topics (included in the price of admission) feature commentary by local artists, art dealers and scholars. Another continued tradition is the preview gala on Jan. 17, which benefits the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Fog’s breadth of programming shows that organizers are thinking bigger.

“In terms of the actual number of exhibitors, this is the first year since the very early years that we have had an expansion,” says Sherrill. “For the past decade, Fog Design+Art has taken place in Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion, which can only accommodate 45 exhibitors. This is the first year we have found a meaningful way to expand the fair that aligns with our mission and vision for the fair.”

Fog Design + Art takes place in Fort Mason's Festival and Gateway pavilions this year. (Courtesy Nikki Ritcher)

Sherrill says the most notable way Fog has changed during her tenure has been increased integration with the San Francisco arts community, particularly with patrons who might not get the chance to otherwise experience fine art: “Each year we give roughly 2,000 tickets away to students and teachers, and we put on a wonderful series of talks that are free with admission, and which present voices both from the Bay Area, and throughout the country.”

Additionally, the fair is accessible to those unable to experience it in person. “All of our programs are live-streamed and are also put on YouTube so anyone can watch them free of charge, from the comfort of their own home,” Sherrill says. “Most of our galleries also create virtual viewing rooms of the works that will be shown, and we then link to those virtual spaces on our website, so that those at home can see the artworks on view.”

The wide outreach hasn’t changed the fact that Fog remains a showcase for fine art.

“We work directly with galleries, and so come across street artists in the context of a gallery’s program,” Sherrill says. “Like most fairs, our direct work with artists takes shape through special activations, such as our entryway installation, our artist-in-residence program, and our programming.”

She adds, “I do think that Fog has helped to elevate many of our local dealers, and to position them more prominently on the national art scene.”

As Sherrill anticipates upcoming Bay Area exhibitions and installations—she’s particularly eager for Kara Walker’s commission for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's admission-free Roberts Family Gallery in July—she admits to a sense of surprise at how well submissions for Fog 2024 fit the “Love Letter to San Francisco” theme, even though organizers did not require it.

“We did not ask exhibitors to respond to this theme,” she says. “There is no other fair in the world where members of the community come back each and every day. To me, that is a testament to the quality of the art and programming and the strength of the San Francisco community.”

Fog Design+Art  runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 18-20 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 21 at Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd., San Francisco. Single-day tickets are $30 -$35; four-day tickets are $75-$80 at fogfair.com. Tickets for the Preview Gala from 4 to 10 p.m. Jan. 17 start at $250 at sfmoma.org.  

Charles Lewis III is a San Francisco-born journalist and performing artist. He has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner and more. Dodgy evidence of this can be found at The Thinking Man’s Idiot.