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Gallerist and curator Holly Fouladi (BFA Painting, 1988) of Fouladi Projects reflects on her time during and after SFAI—from painter to gallery entrepreneur.

Briefly introduce yourself.

I own and curate a contemporary art gallery in San Francisco called Fouladi Projects, which offers relevant and inspiring contemporary fine art in an inviting gallery setting. Though I have an affinity for colorful gestural painting, the artwork in the program spans a wide range of mediums including painting, drawing, photography, video and installation. Once or twice a year the gallery transforms into a store that shows fine art and functional items to further integrate art and life. I like to think that Art is an essential component of living a full life. It provokes us to see things afresh and exalts our senses and connects us to each other and the world in which we live.

Tell us about your time at SFAI.

I was a bit of an introvert when at SFAI so I spent most of my time down in the painting studios. I have fond memories of intimate critiques with my fellow painters and the drawing rooms with live models and artist/teacher Sam Tchakalian yelling drawing corrections at us. Another highlight was the opportunity to spend time with conceptual artist David Ireland and to visit his home on Capp Street.  It was was a real eye opener for me as to what art could be—seeing the beauty in ordinary things, art based on the carrying out of actions. I also remember being inspired by shows in the student Diego Rivera Gallery. One in particular I remember was Barry McGee and his use of space in a way I had not seen before. He hung small houses from the ceiling and installed hundreds of drawings on the entire wall, spilling onto the floor. I look back and wish I’d squeezed out a bit more from my school experience but it was a great start in my journey with the arts….how did I not appreciate that view?

Fouladi Projects has been going strong in the San Francisco art scene. Tell us the story of founding the space.

After graduating from SFAI I continued to make art with the help and encouragement of a small critique group that met every couple weeks. I also found that I was pretty good at putting on shows for our group from my studio. The way I officially fell into the gallery business though was a by chance meeting with an artist named Charles Linder (SFAI Alum) who had art shows from his home/studio. We decided to partner and open a commercial space called Lincart Gallery. We had innovative shows every six weeks and did many art fairs from 2000 until 2009. He was a clever and edgy artist/curator so it was an invaluable experience for me. I started Fouladi Projects in 2010.  My mother was an artist and my father an entrepreneur so seems it was a likely outcome for me to have a gallery. Foremost I understand things from an artist point of view but I also enjoy the challenge of trying to make a business work.

Describe the importance of engaging the public with art through exhibitions, studio visits and personalized art advisory.

I strive to support artists in their creative journey and give them a space to share their work. I equally try to create a friendly environment for people in our community to see and learn about art.

Tell us about some of your exhibitions and events.

One of my favorite shows in the last year was our young Iranian exhibition called After Party that showcased artist born in Iran after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. My intention (as someone who has been married to an Iranian since college) was to give a glimpse into a world that many may not have seen. I also loved the Celebrating Ruth exhibition, showing artists from Ruth Braunstein’s long and enduring program. What a treat it was to spend time with Ruth and hear all her candid stories of the art world. Most recently we did a show called Coming Clean. It was  a collaboration with the non-profit Lava Mae. They turn muni buses into showers for people who don’t have them. It provided an opportunity to think and talk with our community about the many people living on the streets in San Francisco. Fouladi Projects gallery is located on Market Street at Guerrero with large storefront windows so we get quite the view onto the varied on goings of Market Street. Nestled in between Mission, Hayes Valley and a few blocks from Uber and Twitter, one never knows who will walk by.

More and more I know people like to shop on the internet, so I am currently working on a new website with a store and other online platforms. Check out our new site!

Despite the growth of ecommerce and online shopping, for now people still seem to enjoy seeing the work and chatting in person. For the summer we are showing a group show of artists from our program so come by and visit!

Learn more about Fouladi Projects»


Image credits: 1) Installation view of Celebrating Ruth, a group exhibition with Tom Bolles, Robert Brady, Bean Finneran, Gyongy Laky, Cork Marcheschi, Grace Munakata, Craig Nagasawa and Richard Shaw, on view Jan 8-Feb 27, 2016; 2. Installation view of Battle Of Mara At Mount Meru, a solo exhibition by Laine Justice, on view Sep 18-Oct 31, 2015; 3. Omar Chacon, Mesalina Roja, 2016; Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 26 ¼ inches; 4. Babak Kazemi, The Exit of Farhad and Shirin, 2012; C print, 40 x 60 inches, from the exhibition—After Party: Works by Iranian artists born after 1979 Revolution, on view Sep 9-Oct 29, 2016; 5. Holly Fouladi and Ruth Braunstein, 2016. All images courtesy of Holly Fouladi and Fouladi Projects.

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