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Art Fair Mania

The ultimate guide to the Texas Contemporary art fair: Houston's intelligence praised by arty power players

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18 crowd, venue at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair VIP opening party October 2013
The No. 1, must-be-at event of the Texas Contemporary Art Fair weekend is the Thursday night Benefit Preview Reception and VIP Party, which lets Houston art lovers see (while being seen) just about everything before the general public. (File photo) Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
Max Fishko and Jeffery Wainhause of the TX Contemporary Fair April 2013
Organizers Max Fishko, left, and Jeffery Wainhause of Art Market Productions. Photo by © Drew Altizer
Book Machine books on table Texas Contemporary Art Fair
Watch art created live in the Book Machine, a collaborative project presented by Blaffer Art Museum and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. BlafferArtMuseum.org
Texas Contemporary Art Fair charity auction Robert Ruello Unknown Adventures in Unknown Spaces No. 6
One of the charity auction items: Robert Ruello, Unknown Adventures in Unknown Spaces No. 6, acrylic and flashe on canvas, 20 by 16 inches, starting bid $1,500. TxContemporary.com
Texas Contemporary Art Fair Rodrigo Valenzuela Future Rains September 2014
Rodrigo Valenzuela, Future Rains TxContemporary.com
18 crowd, venue at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair VIP opening party October 2013
Max Fishko and Jeffery Wainhause of the TX Contemporary Fair April 2013
Book Machine books on table Texas Contemporary Art Fair
Texas Contemporary Art Fair charity auction Robert Ruello Unknown Adventures in Unknown Spaces No. 6
Texas Contemporary Art Fair Rodrigo Valenzuela Future Rains September 2014
News_Tarra Gaines_head shot_column mug

It’s been four years since the Texas Contemporary Art Fair arrived in Houston, and founder and New Yorker Max Fishko has become quite impressed over those years with the “dedication and depth of knowledge”of Houston and Texas collectors.

“Houston is a really intelligent place and it’s been remarkable to see how sophisticated people’s tastes are, how cognizant people of Houston are of what’s going on in the art world generally and how involved they are,” Fishko told me as he prepared for the opening of the four day 2014 Texas Contemporary, which runs Thursday through Sunday in the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Fishko and partner Jeffrey Wainhause’s Art Market Productions organize fair and markets around the country, including major ones in Miami and San Francisco, so when I asked him how any city, especially Houston, shapes an art market, it was no doubt his experience that had led him to believe that while most cities and states are loyal to work produced in the region, he felt this was perhaps a little more true for Texas.

 “Houston is a really intelligent place and it’s been remarkable to see how sophisticated people’s tastes are." 

“People in Texas and Houston in particular are very independent minded and adventurous in a lot of ways. People in Texas are very proud of the art being made there and being talked about there.”

With that in mind, it’s rather appropriate that Houston and Texas galleries are so well represented in this year’s Texas Contemporary, including Inman Gallery, Barbara Davis Gallery, Moody Gallery, McClain Gallery, Devin Borden Gallery, David Shelton Gallery, Art Palace, Gallery Sonja Roesch, Zoya Tommy Contemporary and The Mission.

Fishko noted that even some of the East and West Coast galleries are getting into the Third Coast spirit with New York’s ACA Galleries showcasing works by Luis Jimenez and Portland's Upfor Gallery’s presentation of the major installation, Future Ruins by 2014 MFAH Core Fellow artist Rodrigo Valenzuela.

These four days will bring to Houston an overwhelming amount of art and events, so with advice from Fishko, CultureMap presents a can’t-miss, to-do list to help you navigate and have a grand old art time at the Fair.

Party like the artists do

In Fishko’s opinion, and he should know, the No. 1, must-attend event of the weekend is the Thursday night Benefit Preview Reception and VIP Party, which lets Houston art lovers see (while being seen) just about everything before the general public. The preview ticket gets you into the fair all four days and provides access to the VIP lounge designed by MaRS, Mayfield and Ragni Studio and furnished by Ligne Roset. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is the beneficiary of the event.

Watch art created live in the Book Machine

This collaborative project presented by Blaffer Art Museum and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and supported by the Texan French Alliance for the Arts and the Cultural Service at the French Consulate in Houston is essentially a kind of pop-up publishing house that was first born as a book making project from the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In the Texas Contemporary incarnation, local artists sign up to work with University of Houston School of Art graphic design program to create a book representation or catalog of their work. According to Fishko, these books “will become a part of this archive that will exist in perpetuity.”

While visitors have a chance to watch the collaboration between artists and designers and view a live video feed of the printing process all weekend, be sure to make time for the closing presentation on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Soak in some cool SXSW vibes without leaving Houston city limits

There are several lectures and talks throughout the weekend, but perhaps the highlight will be “A Conversation with Hugh Forrest,” director of South by Southwest Interactive. In a talk with Glasstire founder Rainey Knudson, Forrest will discuss how SXSW Interactive has become one of the largest creative technology events in the world and what its future will bring.

Lift your virtual paddle

Collecting meets competition as four beautiful pieces are up for grabs in the fair’s charity auction benefiting four worthy organizations: Fresh Arts, Hermann Park Conservancy, the Orange Show and Lawndale Art Center. The online auction launched on Aug 21, and now fairgoers can see, in person, the art by Eduardo Portillo, Robert Ruello, Joe Mancuso, Randy Twaddle.

You have until Sunday at 6 p.m. to bid on one (or hey, why not all?) of these stunning works.

Meet up with some old friends

While it might take the entire weekend to wander through all the national and international art offerings, don’t forget to check out the exhibits from three Houston institutions, which are also Texas Contemporary’s cultural partners: Rice University Art Gallery, FotoFest and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Rice Gallery presents an installation by artist Ana Serrano. CAMH curator collaborates with artists Debra Barrera, Nathaniel Donnett and Carrie Marie Schneider, and Foto Fest highlights 11 international artists in Discoveries of the Meeting Place exhibition.

Don’t leave the fair without giving these local favorites some art love. 

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