SF honey bear artist fnnch partners with Williams-Sonoma

It’s the story of two honey bears: one gets guillotined in the Artists’ Television Access window, the other gets stuck on Williams-Sonoma cups, spatulas and appetizer plates.

Let’s start with the guillotined bear. The teddy bear with a red silk drape over its severed head is believed to have been created by controversial activist group Gay Shame.

The artist’s statement accompanying the installation reads: “Featured in the ATA window display on Valencia Street in San Francisco, a human-sized interpretation of fnnch’s honey bear. He is beheaded by a guillotine. Glimmering blood flows from his severed neck. We say F — K FNNCH and all the gentrification forces in the City. “

According to photos shared on SFist, the art installation was accompanied by a window decal that read, “Guillotine every YIMBY since cubs always mean expulsion” (a sort of acrostic poem for the expression Gay Shame). Those words were no longer present during a recent visit to the honey bear on Friday afternoon.

A depiction of a guillotined honey bear in the Artists Television Access display window in the Mission on Friday, August 6, 2021.

Michelle Robertson / SFGATE

But let’s go back: who is this artist the statement refers to? It is said to be a street artist by the name of “fnnch,” who sparked controversy throughout the city during the pandemic for his now ubiquitous honey bear pieces.

I’m sure you’ve seen them in shop windows before: honey bears wearing masks, honey bears like avocados, honey bears with “Black Lives Matter” sweatshirts. If you can imagine it, a honey bear was probably made to represent it. The image has even been turned into a limited edition NFT artwork.

But not everyone is happy with these bears. One of fnnch’s murals at the SF LGBT Center was repainted in May after the ubiquity of its artwork sparked a backlash across town and its transplant status led to accusations of gentrification. The problem escalated when a conflicting video was posted on fnnch’s social media repainting the LGBT Center mural after it was vandalized. In the video, he claimed to be an immigrant, stating he was from Missouri. (Fnnch did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article).

An example of honey bear art created by fnnch.

An example of honey bear art created by fnnch.

Courtesy of fnnch

Fnnch’s work was later replaced with a mural by queer artists Juan Manuel Carmona and Simón Malvaez, whose work has been featured in El Rio, Blondies and alongside the Painted Ladies.

Despite its detractors, fnnch’s popularity led it to raise $ 293,000 for charity in 2020, according to statements made to the California News Times. Fifty percent of the sales of many of his bear paintings go to associated charities.

But to further escalate the charges against fnnch, the Williams-Sonoma kitchenware store released a collaboration with fnnch on Friday, which it announced via a YouTube video.

“I have two goals in my artistic practice: one is to bring art to the 95% of people who do not go to art museums, and the other is to change the perception that people have. people from the public space, ”says fnnch in the video. to list the many places where he painted honey bears.

“Fnnch added their iconic Honey Bears to spatulas, aprons and more!” the video description reads.

Items in the “Honeybear Collection” are relatively affordable, ranging from the price of the fnnch mug of $ 12.95 to a set of four cereal bowls at $ 49.95. They feature honey bears in every stripe, from the aforementioned avocado bear to a bear in chef’s hat.

“Inspired by her belief that ‘art is for everyone’, we are teaming up to bring art out of the museum and into everyday life,” reads the Williams-Sonoma page.

The timing of collection is, optically, not ideal. The juxtaposition between a guillotined bear in a historic underground art space at the Mission and a Williams-Sonoma “Honeybear Collection” seems to sum up quite succinctly many of the arguments of fnnch detractors.

Going back to the ATA artist’s statement: “Fnnch’s ‘cute art’ is not the innocent beautification of the cityscape … It’s all a public relations smokescreen disguising dispossession. , displacement and destruction that benefits investors, developers and other capitalists. ”

SFGATE Culture Editor-in-Chief Dan Gentile contributed to this report.

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