A grouping of eight murals funded by the San Francisco artist Fnnch—famous for his series of honey bears that proliferated during the pandemic—will be revealed Sunday, with a celebration from noon to 2 p.m. on Steiner Street near Alamo Square.
Given that some 10,000 honey bears once adorned city walls and hung in apartment windows, it would appear that the artist made more fans than enemies. At the project’s height, there were as many honey bears as there are city blocks in San Francisco, and Fnnch believes that jealousy played a part in fueling the vitriol.
“When you get successful, people want to hate on you,” he said. “There’s not a lot of artists who sell the amount of art I do.”
Fnnch has gone as far as licensing the honey bear to Williams-Sonoma. The San Francisco-headquartered home and kitchen retailer slapped his sweet ursine illustrations on everything from spatulas and plates to aprons and tote bags in a move that some people would say disqualifies him from the title of street artist.
“I’m a commercial artist,” he said. “Not everyone is going to like your art.”
But the new mural installation, the fifth in five years at this location, is as much about showcasing the work of other artists as it is about Fnnch—and there isn’t a honey bear in sight.
Instead, Fnnch’s contribution is a swan, a replica of the same swan he painted 10 years ago to the day as his first-ever stencil painting, which he now identifies as the beginning of his artistic journey.
Seven local muralists—eight including Fnnch—represent a diversity of styles. There’s a piece about mental health, courtesy of Ian the Meow. There’s Steve Bauer’s rendition of the long-lost 17 Reasons sign that used to stand in the Mission. There are more abstract compositions like the one from Mitch Bierer. The artists Pablito, Brendon Metcalf, Elliott C. Nathan and Matley Hurd also have panels.
The paintable wooden boards, installed by the property's owner, hang on a chain link fence, transforming what had been an empty lot into a mobile art gallery.
For his part, Fnnch thinks he’s done more good than harm for the art community—raising some half a million dollars for local artists by his count—and that it’s ludicrous for people to equate his honey bears with gentrification.
“It’s a lot more complicated to understand housing policies,” Fnnch said. “It’s a lot easier to say. 'Fuck the honey bear.'”
Julie Zigoris can be reached at email@example.com