That's selling it short, though. The shop has 1,400 square feet of retail and gallery space, packed with a colorful, curated collection of books, modern design objects, edgy artist-designed t-shirts and jewelry, and artist multiples. Work by established and emerging artists from the Bay Area and beyond cover the walls, salon-style; an adjacent gallery space is dedicated to monthly solo and group exhibitions. They also publish books and catalogs under the imprint Paper Museum Press.
It's a cool art-meets-commerce model: Having the retail component means the gallery isn't dependent on art sales alone—which frees them up to be more creative and less commercial (they often exhibit "non-sellable" art, as Alexander puts it), and also to sell work at really affordable prices. A couple years ago I checked out a show featuring a gigantic wall mural and three small paintings by artist Chris Ballantyne; they also sold limited-edition prints of his work for $350 each, and 50 post-it notes of his rough sketches for $50 each. They ask artists to take risks and do things they wouldn't get to do at a 'normal' gallery.
Because they're not a full-service gallery, they give their artists a higher percentage of sales, usually 60%. Other galleries don't see them as a threat, and allow their artists to work with Park Life on special projects; for example, Glasgow-based artist David Shrigley has created skateboard decks and t-shirts for the shop, plus a set of salt-and-pepper shakers inscribed with the words 'cocaine' and 'heroin' (yours for $125!).
On October 22, they'll open 'Unnatural Plans,' an exhibition of colorful abstract paintings by Masako Mike and Steven Lopez. Come November 4 through 7, they'll be at the New York Art Book Fair at MoMA's PS1, releasing a new Tucker Nichols' limited edition print and displaying a selection of products and artworks from the San Francisco shop. Check them out if you're in New York!
When not writing, editing, or combing design magazines and blogs for inspiration, Jaime Gillin is experimenting with new recipes, traveling as much as possible, and tackling minor home-improvement projects that inevitably turn out to be more complex than anticipated.