The de Young museum in San Francisco is currently exhibiting 'South of Market', a group of photographs taken by artist Janet Delaney in the mid-1980s of the South of Market neighborhood. During the period the photographs were taken, San Francisco was experiencing a wave of re-development and "gentrification" in this area of the city that permanently altered the neighborhood. It was at this time that the Moscone Center complex was first built (it would later be expanded several times) and also when the mid-sized to high-rise buildings began to creep down from along Market Street. Before this, the neighborhood was an area where the poor and working class sectors of the city's population lived and in many cases worked. It also housed a large population of artists and the gay community, along with a mixture of Latino, Asian, and African American minorities.
Seth Curcio in conversation with Janet Delaney at the de Young Museum, San Francisco about the exhibition 'South of Market'. June 5, 2015.
Delaney, a resident in the neighborhood during this period, began to photograph and interview the residents in their homes, businesses, and in the streets about who they were, what their lives were like, and about the rise of evictions throughout the area. The resulting photographs and interviews were later compiled into a book that was published in 1995 and has been reprinted for the current exhibition. Despite having been displayed previously, this is the first exhibition of this body of work in a museum and it is the most comprehensive display of these photographs to date.
This exhibition is incredibly timely as San Francisco is experiencing yet another wave of "boom times" with the newest wave of technology companies, and with that has come a new wave of construction in the South of Market and Financial Districts. The influx of new workers has driven up both commercial and residential rents to peak heights, leading to the death or migration of hundreds of small businesses and non profit organizations around the city (especially in the arts), and a massive spike in Ellis Act evictions, which allows building owners to convert rental units into condominiums and sell them off, or to just sell the building to a new owner.
As part of the public programming surrounding the exhibition, the de Young has organized a series of lectures with Janet Delaney and selected moderators to discuss the importance of the work in light of its historical significance and to view it in relation to the transformations that are currently taking place. For those who missed it or who cannot attend, the embedded video with the article is a recording of the first of three lectures happening this month at the museum. Here Delaney sits down with Seth Curcio, Associate Director at Pier 24 Photography.
'South of Market' is on view at the de Young Museum in San Francisco until July 19, 2015. The second and third lectures associated with the exhibition with be held on June 12 and June 19 at the museum.