Thursday, February 28, 2002

The Cyber Scene in San Francisco ~ by Lorraine Sanders

Ever think you'd see thirty people sipping wine in someone's living room, each gingerly balancing a Chagall on one knee and a Picasso on the other? On Thursday February 28th in San Francisco, an eclectic group gathered at Venture Capitalist Robert Ross's Potrero Hill loft for a reception and lecture given by San Francisco's prestigious Franklin Bowles Gallery. Dr. Jean Audigier, Vice President of the gallery and Professor of Fine Art at the University of San Francisco, presented a brief lecture and more than twenty original works by the likes of Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and contemporary artists in the Franklin Bowles collection.

The evening began at 7 p.m. with a reception in Ross's spacious loft. Wood paneled floors, high ceilings, and huge open windows accented with steel created the perfect setting for an intimate gathering of fine art and art lovers. Guests sipped wine and sampled sushi in the living room while Franklin Bowles host and art consultant Lisa Prescutti and intern Erin ushered in the last of the original works. Audigier and his assistant Chris Cooke welcomed guests warmly. In attendance were up-and-coming author and voice talent Melissa Dodd and her friend Dan, a copywriter for Macy's; CEO John Doffing and friends; Spectacle Chief Strategist Jamie Ward and several Spectacle designers and friends; black-clad art enthusiasts; friends and significant others of the hosts; collectors from as far away as Napa, Ca; and what was quite possibly the most well behaved dog I've ever seen. After the room filled with guests, the Franklin Bowles representatives managed to herd the lively crowd into seats for the evening's lecture.

Audigier, a prominent expert on Rembrandt, Picasso and Chagall, said inspiration for the talk came after several Silicon Valley friends and executives "wanted to know the difference between good and bad art."

Audigier launched into this difficult topic with graceful aplomb and many humorous touches. After ridiculing the 19th century French Salon's failure to accurately recognize Impressionism as good art and then blasting the SF MOMA's near-worship of popular artists like Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons, Audigier began outlining his own prescription for good art.

"Form is essential to any great work of art," he commented as he flipped through several slides of painting by Salvador Dali. "You have to be true to yourself and you cannot imitate anyone else," he continued as he flashed a Magritte, then a Van Gogh on the screen.

Suddenly, much to the audience's delight, Audigier began illustrating his points with framed, original etchings by Picasso and paintings by Chagall. There was even a framed drawing by Dali thrown into the mix. As I sat there, actually holding a real-honest-to-god Picasso etching from the Metamorphoses of Ovid Series in my very own two hands, I could do little more than swallow loudly at the precious work and sigh, "Wow," before handing it back to Chris Cooke who stood nearby. Each person in the living room was able to hold at least ten framed originals by these contemporary masters before passing them along to the next eager attendee.

After the lecture, guests had the opportunity to view the Franklin Bowles Galleries' a selection of works for sale at the gathering. Lisa Prescutti, a Franklin Bowles art consultant, led collectors through the different pieces at the showing while guests continued to mingle, sip the remaining wine, and marvel at the breathe-taking selection of master works propped up in every corner of the room.

After perusing the etchings and paintings on display and chatting with a few last guests in attendance, I slipped down the stairs and out into Potrero's dark, warehouse-laden streets. From outside, chatter from loft's open windows escaped into the quiet streets. Little did the few people I passed on the sidewalk know that there were masterpieces just feet above our heads.