Jessica Silverman

Art Curator & Gallery Owner

Jessica Silverman owns a renowned contemporary art gallery in San Francisco. She is known for curating thought-provoking exhibitions of work by emergent artists and building artists’ careers through sales to a broad range of national and international museums. She came to love Sante Fe through two of her artists—legendary feminist Judy Chicago and celebrated native sculptor Rose B. Simpson.

Born in Michigan and introduced to art by her grandparents (who gifted much of their collection to MOMA NY), Silverman found her gift for curating while studying to become an artist. For Silverman, great curation delivers memorable experiences that balance beauty with ideas and novelty with historical reflection.

Why We Love Jessica Silverman

Jessica represents artists of all ages, from pioneering local figures to international stars. She’s more than a curator, but a confidante, editor and collaborator.

“When there is open dialogue between gallery and artist, great things can be achieved.”

“I have a lot of patience and take great pleasure in helping people build collections that accurately reflect their aspirations and cultural values.”

6 Questions with Jessica Silverman

  1. How do you think being an artist and being a curator are similar and different?

    While I went to undergrad at Otis College, the bulk of my studio time there was really developing my curatorial instincts, thinking about the way in which I engaged with and spoke about other artists’ practices. I went through a series of exhibitions where I would either interview the artist, write something, or commission some to write about the work. I’d say even more so than having an artistic background, I think the thing that has developed my curatorial approach was growing up with collectors who helped me understand the desire to have, own and live with and support artistic practice. That’s really integral to the collector’s role. As a dealer, it’s something I think about a lot.

  2. Your grandparents collected Fluxus art. What is it and how did it influence you?

    To contextualize it a bit, if you think about Surrealism or Dada, Fluxus falls right in the middle art historically. Fluxus was founded by an artist named George Maciunas. He was really a curator and so the way he oversaw, the packaging of each work, really speaks to my curatorial methodologies as well. My grandparents bought this stuff when no one really wanted it and it was inexpensive. But, they’ve since donated it all to institutions—MoMa New York, DIA in Detroit and the Israel Museum.

  3. What’s a work of art from the past that really resonated with you?

    I’ve always loved Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece. I actually think performances are very his or miss. You take a huge risk with it. I think a performance that’s successful is one that stands the test of time. Cut Piece, for me, is one of those performances. It was done in 1964 and she stands on stage and cuts away her clothing. I actually think it resonates with our current moment. It’s quite prescient to think of the woman’s power to be on stage and expose herself versus a man doing that to a woman. I think it’s a poetic, stoic work that I’ve always really responded to.

  4. What is your approach to working with artists?

    I’m really interested in collaboration. We work really hard for our artists, to provide them with support. It’s important to me and my colleagues that we have a similar effort from the artist’s side when getting into a relationship. I think they need to be clear, articulate, personable, hardworking and honest. When I look at the work, I’m trying to reconcile two modes: one is their creativity and craftsmanship, and then what is their conceptual conceit. For someone like Rose Simpson, I saw it in New Mexico and I was blown away. Then I met her and I was doubly blown away. It has to start with the work and then when you get a great personality, it’s just the best combination ever.

  5. How has your gallery grown and evolved over the past decade?

    I’ve always been a proponent of ‘slow and steady.’ I think however slow you try to keep it, things move forward. I think we’ve been really fortunate to have brought on more established artists like Judy Chicago and Andrea Bowers into our program recently. I think when we have more established artists, that really elevates everything. And the fact that we’re doing more museum shows with artists. You know, our artists are getting institutional shows in Europe, New York, California, there are more catalogs, press. It’s definitely been a huge change.

  6. If you could bring a piece from any artist in history into your gallery right now, what would it be?

    Oh, man, that’s hard. There’s so many. I’m thinking about Louise Bourgeois. I almost can’t decide, I love her work so much. She did these cells, they’re like these large cages she did and I think they’re absolutely fabulous. So, a Louise Bourgeois Cell.

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