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Artists Who Collect: Inside the SF Homes of Obsessive Creatives

ArtSpan’s Open Studios returns this month, once again offering local art lovers up close and personal access to San Francisco’s talented makers. It’s perhaps the best opportunity to learn about and support SF artists by collecting their works—especially if you happen to be on a budget.

But it stands to reason that Open Studios isn’t just a goldmine of art for the general public: The artists also take the opportunity to scope out the competition and, as many are collectors themselves, make out like bandits.


We invited ourselves into the SF homes of three artist/collector couples for a peek at their prized works, collected at Open Studios and beyond, and for chats about what we should look for when collecting art ourselves. Hint: You gotta love it.

Shannon Kaye and Ray Beldner

Avid art lovers and collectors have likely bumped into Ray Beldner and Shannon Kaye, whether you’ve come upon their works, seen them on TV, or met them face to face.

Beldner’s sculpture and new media art has been exhibited at The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. As a painter and residential color consultant, Kaye has hosted shows on the DIY Network and Portico TV. And more locally, the couple directs the annual Startup Art Fair (in April at the Hotel Del Sol), which aims to connect buyers with global artists, and regularly partners with ArtSpan for public events. (The couple does not participate directly in Open Studios, but say it has been a treasure trove for their own collection.)

Less likely is that you’ve been invited to their colorful Bernal Heights home, a 1906 earthquake shack stuffed with vintage and repurposed furniture—a vintage hotel room service cart used as an entertainment center; bookshelves that hold their dishes in the place of built-in cabinets—and more than 100 pieces of art, including classic black-and-white photographs by Ansel Adams, André Kertész, Barbara Morgan and William Heick. But for both Beldner and Kaye, it’s the pieces created by family and friends—a larger-than-life rabbit drawing by Phil Knoll, sculptural animal forms by Walter Robinson, personal pieces by Kaye’s brother Lane Hunter, that they cherish the most.

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7×7: When did you start to collect art?

SK: “Ray has been collecting art as long as he’s been making it. A lot of pieces in the collection came through trades with other artists, gifts, and purchases made from his friends’ shows. More recently, he has been buying work at auctions and collects one piece at every Startup Art Fair event. I, instead, began collecting when I started my decorative painting business and started meeting other artists. But I’ve always collected vintage furnishings and accessories for our home.”

7×7: What do you look for in art pieces to collect?

SK: “We know it when we see it. We don’t look for pieces to fill certain spaces in our home, we just look to be moved by the work in some way.”

7×7: Who are your favorite Bay Area artists?

SK: “At Startup [Art Fair], we work with more than 300 artists, many of them from the Bay Area. So it’s difficult to choose a favorite, but some of our all-time favorite Bay Area artists are Stephanie Syjuco, Travis Somerville, Lordy Rodriguez, Lauren DiCioccio, and Richard Misrach.”

// Check out Kaye and Beldner’s work at shannonkaye.com, raybeldner.com respectively, and look for Startup Art Fair to return in April 2019, startupartfair.com.

​Trish Tunney and DK Haas

Cityscapes are the focus of fine art photographer Trish Tunney, who pays the bills shooting events and executive portraits. Her partner, abstract painter DK Haas, began making art at the age of 40. Together, the Inner Mission couple makes art a way of life in their 1904 Edwardian home, which is furnished in rescued mid-century designs that they’ve had restored by a local craftsman who works out of the garage in their alley.

Their house, filled with the works of more than 80 Bay Area artists—including printmaker Jenny Robinson (“We love her work”), Carolyn Meyer (“we have a cityscape that is extraordinary”), and Tim Yankosky (“DK commissioned a piece for my birthday that is really special”)—is a dead giveaway about their art obsession: “Even the tiny water closet has three pieces hanging” in it, Tunney says.

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7×7: How did your art habit start?

TT: “We bought our first piece of art together in 2005 at SF Open Studios in Hunters Point. It was a piece by Stephen Bucci who was making art and furniture out of reclaimed wood. I didn’t realize at the time that we would become art collectors, but it became an experience we enjoyed sharing. We both feel supported by the San Francisco [community of] art collectors and artists—picking out art to live with seems like a natural way to be a part of that community. We have focused a lot of our philanthropic energies on bringing art home as well. We love art auctions and the excitement of trying to make fast decisions and taking in a whole gallery of art at once with lots of other friends, artists, and collectors buzzing through and event. DK can get pretty strategic and competitive!”

7×7: What are your most prized pieces?

TT: “We have more Catherine Mackey pieces in our collection than any other artist, but our biggest stretch was the Rex Ray that we co-own with our friend Mia. In the excitement of the live auction at Art for AIDS one year, I was bidding on the Rex Ray and it went beyond what I could feasibly lift my paddle for. We decided to pool our resources together to keep bidding and win. We have traded the piece every six months for years—it’s really fun when he comes back home.”

7×7: What are your prerequisites for purchasing art?

TT: “We have some rules around buying art. There is a low threshold, both in size and cost, beyond which we have to both agree, and there are some physical limitations. Our 114-year-old home is built like a doll house with tiny rooms, small walls, and lots of molding—the art has to be sized to fit. But we never buy art with a specific location in mind; e like to move our art around often. We also choose art that we want to live with. I had a gallerist recently ask me to describe our collection. I came up with the term ‘urban optimistic.'”

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// Swing by Tunney and Haas’ shared studio at 1890 Bryant St., #311 (Mission), Nov. 10-11, 11am to 6pm. For more info, go to dkhaas.smugmug.com and trishtunney.com.

Greta and Manu Schnetzler

It’s moody night light and the transformative power of dawn that captures the lenses of photographer-couple Greta and Manu Schnetzler, whose work portrays industrial city scenes and abandoned cars against the black skies of midnight hours.

At the Victorian home in Potrero Hill that they’ve shared for more than 20 years, the artists have amassed a collection so vast they can’t show it all at once—”so we tend to rotate the collection all over the house,” says Greta. She notes a particularly prized piece plucked from Brian Goggin’s Defenestration—that 14-year installation of furniture that seemed to jump from the windows of a Folsom Street building that was dismantled back in 2014—which hasn’t yet found its place in the Schnetzlers’ house.

Unsurprisingly, the photographers largely collect photographs in black and white, “by artists whose work inspires us, and whose work is still somewhat affordable,” says Greta Schnetzler. “Every year or so, we splurge on a really nice photo, so we have work by Elliott Erwitt, Ruth Bernhard, Gordon Parks, Willy Ronis, and Jock Sturges—all of which mean a lot to us.”

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7×7: How did you begin collecting?

MS: “We have always loved art and had a lot of artist friends. Greta was even bartering for art in college when she didn’t have a lot of money. The first piece [we purchased] after moving to San Francisco was a sculpture from ArtSpan Open Studios in 1989; it is still in our garden.”

7×7: What do you look for when considering a purchase?

MS: “We love to support local artists. We generally have to know that [a piece] is something that we can love and live with for a long time, and given the size of our home and that it is already packed with art, we must choose carefully. Excellent technical craft is important no matter what medium an artist is working in. We will often follow an artist’s progression for a while before deciding to purchase something. Other times it is truly a coup de foudre (“lightning strike”), where we see something and know we have to have it.”

7×7: What Bay Area artists do you admire?

MS: “There are so many artists doing amazing work in San Francisco and the Bay Area right now. We really appreciate all of it—from street art, conceptual art, performance art, to more traditional fine art. We are enjoying discovering new work all the time. Greta loves Erika Sanada‘s wonderful ceramic work and just managed to snag a piece from her sold-out show at Modern Eden Gallery. We are also big fans of the classic Bay Area photographers who formed Group f.64.”

// Say hello and peruse the Schnetzlers’ photography at Open Studios on Oct. 27-28 at Arch Supplies, 10 Carolina St. (SoMa). There will be a preview party 6:30 to 9pm, Friday, Oct. 26. For more information, go to studionocturnesf.wordpress.com; schnetzler.com.

ArtSpan’s SF Open Studios 2018 runs five weekends, October 13th through November 11th, in neighborhoods throughout San Francisco; for the complete schedule, go to artspan.org.


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