When San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 for the Panama–Pacific International Exposition, its spacious Exhibit Hall was filled with 11,403 works of art, including paintings by the likes of Whistler, Munch, Van Gogh, and Monet. In 1969, the curving structure became the home of a hands-on science museum called the Exploratorium. And now, from April 26 through 29, 2018, the building’s diverse history as a place for both art and science comes together in “If So, What?” Part international art fair, music festival, and TED Talk, If So? What promises to connect the dots between ostensibly unrelated disciplines, whether it’s cryptocurrency, VR visual art, or the future of online communities.

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Santiago Montoya, “US Flag (II)” (detail), Courtesy Halcyon Gallery

The art alone is worth the price of admission (save 10% by entering FRIENDS.ISW at checkout). One gallery that will have a strong presence at ISW is Halcyon Gallery of London, which will be showing the work of contemporary Colombian artist Santiago Montoya, among others. In a post-Warholian commentary on money as art, Montoya sometimes uses actual currency as a raw material—for “US Flag (II),” shown above, Montoya wraps banknotes around stainless-steel tubes, simultaneous reducing and elevating filthy lucre to the less-fraught realm of pattern and design.

Dominic Harris, “Simulated (10),” Courtesy Priveekollektie

Represented by Priveekollektie of Amsterdam, Dominic Harris pairs our nostalgia for old technology with our infatuation for the new. In “Simulated (10),” shown above, Harris gives us a row of 10 cold-cathode, gas-discharge Nixie tubes, which were used in the 1950s and ’60s to display numbers, letters, and symbols. But Harris ups the electronic ante by programmining his Nixies to generate almost 1,000 different word combinations using just five vowels and as many consonants. Psychology is also on the artist’s mind—thanks to the phenomenon of typoglycemia, which we employ almost every time we read a text message, our brains understand the words that appear before us, even if they are not spelled correctly.

Tim Bengel, My American Dream, Courtesy HG Contemporary

Tim Bengel, who is represented by HG Contemporary of New York, is an artist who has used social media to demystify his technique, in which he places sand, glue, varnish, and gold leaf on horizontal aluminum panels before tipping them 90 degrees them to reveal the final image. The YouTube video for the piece he’ll be showing at ISW, titled “My American Dream,” had almost a million views as we went to press (the reveal at the end is totally worth it!). Thanks to his “celebrity,” Harris is introducing new audiences to fine art in ways that are both more efficient an engaging than the traditional approaches of the mainstream art world.

Paul McCarthy, “Coach Stage Stage Coach VR experiment Mary and Eve,” Courtesy Khora Contemporary

Last but not least, Khora Contemporary, the world’s first Virtual Reality art production company, presents two works, including “Coach Stage Stage Coach VR experiment Mary and Eve” by Paul McCarthy, whose 2014 installation in Paris of a green inflatable sculpture called “Tree” was shaped like a sex toy (it lasted two days). In his VR film for ISW, which can be thought of as a high-tech spinoff of the classic John Ford Western of 1939, McCarthy makes viewers part of a “vicious mind game” that, according to the gallery, “escalates into a psychosexual trip of rape and humiliation,” which means some people are likely to find it every bit as challenging as McCarthy’s “Tree.”

If you want to know more about the upcoming fair visit If So, What?'s website!

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