Fake Gallery is the Real Deal 

Last week, I had the chance to sit down with the founders of San Antonio’s latest art enigma, Fake Gallery, Mark Anthony Martínez and John Paul Graciano. As we sat outside of the Good Kind sipping on cocktails and enjoying the company of a neighborhood cat, John and Mark told me about their history and the creation of their experimental pop-up. 

Friends since 2002, Martínez, a conceptual artist, and Graciano, a writer, have been playing around with the idea of Fake Gallery for a while now. The concept behind Fake gallery arose during a time when Martínez was in the middle of discovering the next steps in his career. Passionate about remaining involved in the arts scene when not working at an arts organization, Martínez was also interested in having a space that was less “polished” than your typical arts organization. A place where he could explore and develop shows that are a little less refined but no less interesting. 

Co-creators/ FAKE Curators John Paul Graciano (left) and Mark Anthony Martínez (right).
Photo by Jenelle Esparza, 2018.

“Having our own space, would have at least for me been this type of release valve from having to officially program and market everything, including prep work and manage volunteers and things like that. I just wanted a space where it wasn’t so polished or so intensive setting up. Something more pop-up focused. There’s a lot of folks that are artists but are not represented by galleries or get exhibitions…I felt like at the moment there was no space for them.” – Mark Anthony Martínez

The duo is adamant about providing space for emerging artists or self-taught artists that are just starting out. Alongside those artists, they want to provide the opportunity for folks with a fine arts background, that perhaps have not exhibited in a while, or are newly returned to town.

Through all the brainstorming, Martínez and Graciano thought it would be funny if the walls were made out of wooden pallets, mimicking typical white wall galleries only insofar as there would be art on them. The whole concept behind Fake Gallery, from the pallets to the name itself, is a way the founders are hoping to subvert the typical gallery system. As many of us involved in the arts know, the art world can be an intimidating place. Artists often find it difficult to find galleries willing to exhibit an emerging or inexperienced artist. You have to know the right people, have the right shows on your CV, and generally play the game. Mark and John said, fuck that, and Fake Gallery was born. 

The original concept of the pop-up always included utilizing rescue pallets to form the walls of the space. The pallets would be easy to obtain and would stay true to the theme of a tongue-in-cheek, low-brow aesthetic. Or, so they thought. Apparently, you can’t pick up just any palettes off the street. Some companies put pesticides or other chemicals to make the materials last. Not to mention they had a difficult time finding pallets of the same size. While the form of the pallets have evolved since the birth of the idea, it was an integral part of the pop-up, so Graciano constructed the palettes himself. 

“At one point they were supposed to be easy to find…Certain companies put certain things on [pallets]  to make them last longer so they can’t be in the upstairs studios for a couple hours…[Pallets] have always been the main concept of it because at one point the walls were supposed to be a stack of six and we put them on wheels and the walls were supposed to spin..so I just found a very cheap way to make them.” – John Paul Graciano

Hannah Strobel, Laundry Daze #1, 2019, Mixed media, t-shirts, shelf. Photo by Casie Lomeli.

This is the first time the longtime friends have really collaborated 50/50 on a project. Martínez wanted it to be known that there was no other person better suited to make Fake Gallery a reality, particularly when it came down to making the pallets a possibility. While the pop-up consists of the two founders, they are open to guest curators, again hoping to provide an opportunity for burgeoning creatives.

For their inaugural exhibition Fake Gallery has partnered with Flax studio (owned by Katy Silva). The exhibition is a group show featuring Allysha Farmer, Chandler Heydon, Zach Jones, Sealia Montalvo, Sergio Ramos, Hannah Strobel, Paul Taylor, and Fred Wood. From sculptures constructed using t-shirts, to monstrous, ceramic forms and photography, these eight artists create an intriguing exhibition. 

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Allysha Farmer, Nature of condition, 2019, Porcelain and wax. Photo by Casie Lomeli.

Fake Gallery will head to Freight for Second Saturday in October and they are in talks with another local art space for a third run. They have plenty show ideas in mind, one of which is a Senior Show and will include seniors across the spectrum. Whether you’re a senior in high school, a senior in life, or a “senior” something or another at your job, this is a show for you. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how San Antonio is full of potential. There are so many possibilities of what we can do in the arts and Fake Gallery is showing us that. I’m excited to see San Antonio embrace nontraditional spaces and artists and move towards a new era of contemporary art. It’s a really exciting time in San Antonio and I think it’s time to do whatever the fuck we want to do. After all, we are never going to break into the larger art scene if we’re afraid to innovate. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Fake Gallery or to set up an appointment, you can email Mark and John at fakegallerysatx@gmail.com. 

Author: Casie Lomeli

Casie Lomeli is one of the Unfiltered San Antonio co-founders. With a background in art history and business, Lomeli is currently focused on design, curation, and hopping from art event to art event.

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