If you thought that street artist fnnch and his over-exposed honey bear art might fade away at some point, you can rest assured that the honey bears will in fact just keep multiplying and showing up where you least expected.
San Francisco-based houseware, cookware, and luxury food company Williams-Sonoma has cut a deal with fnnch to mass-produce honey-bear-printed aprons, dishes, cereal bowls, spatulas, and more. And for the circles of the local populace who have decided fnnch is Enemy Number One in the realm of gentrification, good taste, and everything else, this news will only fuel the fire. For anyone else whose kids like the honey bears that appear all over the city, or who still finds them charming and not annoyingly one-note, you can now have one at the bottom of a cereal bowl.
The SF Business Times caught the news of the Williams-Sonoma–fnnch collab via the video below, and yes, there's even a travel coffee mug with a pour-over–themed honey bear on the side of it ($16.95).
"I was excited to work with Williams-Sonoma because I have a long relationship with cooking," fnnch says. "I don't feel pretentious about my art or protective in that it has to be in a white-wall gallery setting and it's got to be viewed in a specific way. I'm excited for people to bring it into their home and for people to eat food off of it and to eat cereal out of the bowls and to wear the aprons as they cook."
And if you're one of those who think that fnnch's too-cute stencil bears don't even qualify as art at this point especially when they're being used to sell dishware, then you'll enjoy this quote too:
"Maybe you don't want a painting on your wall. We can get art into your cereal bowl instead," fnnch tells the Business Times. The cereal bowls are $49.95 for a set of four, FYI.
The partnership came about after fnnch was spray-painting honey bears on the boarded-up Williams-Sonoma storefront in the Marina last year, and the company reached out to him, he says.
Fnnch, who began his Bay Area life in the tech world and then began doing his mural work full time in 2016, demurs when asked how much money he stands to make in this deal.
"In honest truth, I have very little idea what this means for my art practice financially. I keep a certain percentage of sales," fnnch tells the Business Times. “I couldn’t tell you if a collection sells $10,000 or $100,000 or a million dollars. I’m more excited about introducing my work to new people, and Williams-Sonoma has the ability to manufacture things that I don’t have."
Some in the local art world and broadly on social media have demonized fnnch as a usurper of attention, a bad and over-exposed artist, and a harbinger of gentrification. And the criticisms don't just date back to this past year, when they became louder — as SFist reported in 2016, a tortoise mural he painted along the PG&E substation at 19th and San Carlos in the Mission was tagged with the words "Latino art only."
Fnnch did not help matters when, confronted by one of these critics while he installed a mural on the side of the SF LGBT Center in April, he claimed to be an "immigrant" to San Francisco himself, because he came from Missouri. The ensuing controversy led to the mural being quickly painted over and replaced by one painted by queer Latinx artists.
Last week, SFist noted that another artist had put a beheaded honey bear effigy, along with blood and a guillotine, in the window of Artists’ Television Access (ATA) on Valencia. By way of taking credit, the group Gay Shame made a new acronym of their own name to stand for "Guillotine All YIMBYs Since Honeybears Always Mean Eviction."
"It was a fun image, kids liked it, that was about the level of criticality people had left in their brain space at the beginning of the pandemic, when it was embraced,” says Jaime Austin, the director of exhibitions and public programming at the California College of the Arts, speaking to the Chronicle's Datebook in May about the honey bear controversy. "At some point, it feels like things can turn and go out of the control of the artist, and it means something different."
Artist Melanie Getman tells the Chronicle that she always viewed the stencil art as "more akin to logos than art," and "designed to be an Instagram background." And, she adds, it's sort of like when Starbucks moves into an area: "One is fine, but if they’re everywhere, it feels like a corporate takeover."
Well now the bears have come full circle to become Williams-Sonoma product logos, so there you go.