How exactly the countercultural capital ended up becoming the most expensive city in the US in recent years is one of the great ironies of history, but Bass has no desire to belabor the point. “San Francisco is still a lively place, one which we shouldn’t hold hostage to nostalgia.” Actually, explains the publisher, the migration of high-earning IT employees from the dull suburbs to the city makes perfect sense. As does the fact that the work of the computer and internet industries influences the art scene as well.
Every day, rail commuters to Silicon Valley clatter past a 180-meter (600-ft.) long mural, the largest of many in San Francisco. The work was financed via crowdfunding. “After I got the idea,” recalls artist Brian Barneclo, “the first thing I did was get the building owner’s permission.” It took the artist years to gather funds for his project. “I ended up painting the thing in less than two weeks.” Gifted with a wry sense of humour and a healthy dose of self-criticism, Barneclo has won large-format commissions from Google and Facebook thanks to his success as a street artist. “All of a sudden I was a mural painter,” explains the 44-year-old. He doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with this, however.
“I’ve ventured outside my comfort zone, tried something new – but nowadays I wouldn’t mind having a few works on display in galleries again,” says Barneclo. Grinning, he adds, “The truth is murals are only there so that people can take selfies in front of them.”
And ultimately upload them to the same social networks that have triumphantly conquered the world from their humble beginnings in the Bay Area. No doubt about it – you can’t get away from San Francisco and its revolutionary ideas. Both in virtual and in real life.