Fall in Houston brings fair time — art fairs, that is — and for the first year ever the two big collecting extravaganzas, the Texas Contemporary Art Fair (TCAF) and the Houston Art Fair (HAF) are happening on the same four days, September 29-October 2. No, it’s not a scheduling snafu, at least not on HAF’s part. This "all-art all-the-time" weekend comes to bring maximum buying and browsing fun for local art-lovers while giving out-of-town gallery owners, collectors and art experts two big artfully fair reasons to to visit Houston.
With so many exhibits, celebrations and events to enjoy in four days, we just might reach art overload. So to help you organize and navigate the weekend, here’s a quick guide on the different fairs, along with some don’t-miss events to watch for as Houston gets its art on.
Which Fair is Which?
The Texas Contemporary sets up its lovely wares at its usual spot, the George R. Brown Convention Center. Expect 65 local, national, and international galleries to present their artists’ works as well as large installations throughout the hall, lectures, parties and some live performances. For the second year in a row, TCAF points a spotlight on Mexico with The Other Mexico, a special Leslie Moody Castro curated section featuring five galleries from Monterrey, Oaxaca City, Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Mérida.
The Houston Art Fair, meanwhile has undergone three big changes since last year, starting with its name. When the Atlanta-based Urban Expositions acquired Houston Fine Art Fair organizers and owners Hamptons Expo Group last year, they decided to drop the “Fine” from the name. When I recently talked to Donna Davies, vice president of art group at Urban Expositions, she explained they hope the name change gives HAF a “broader scope,” especially as they partner with galleries who exhibit works in different genres, and that the “fine” felt a bit “antiquated.”
They also made the decision to sync up fair dates after talking with gallery owners, patrons and city officials. While it might cause Houston collectors and art lovers some driving between events, having both fairs on the same weekend allows out-of-town guest to consolidate their art-buying travels.
The last big change is a move from NRG Center to Silver Street Event Space, which brings the HAF closer to downtown, and closer to George R. Brown, for that matter. Davis touts Silver Street as providing a more intimate experience with less of a “big box” feel that the large space of a big convention hall might bring.
Pick Your Party
It wouldn't be an art fair without an opening night VIP preview for a good art cause, but they’re both happening Thursday, September 29, so choose your celebration, venue, and decide just how very of a very important person you want to feel because both events have multiple levels. At Silver Street, HAF gives patrons a preview of the preview with First Look opportunity at 6 pm before the VIP opening night at 8 pm. These events benefit FotoFest International.
Back at George R. Brown, TCAF offers a select patron pass and a patron pass to the opening night preview, also at 6 pm, which benefits the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Anyone purchasing a multi-day pass can enter the preview at 8 pm on Thursday.
Check the calendar for both fairs because those VIP tickets also get patrons into exclusive tours, performances and lectures.
Fairgoers will want to walk through all the galleries to admire and maybe even make an art-buying love connection, but both fairs have packed into four days an amount of programming that could keep us busy on site and around the city for weeks. Here are just a few of the events we don’t want to miss.
- TCAF celebrates more than just the visual arts this year with some live performances, starting with a collaboration and “physical conversation” between the Houston Ballet's Oliver Halkowich and artist Chris Doyle. The Inprint Poetry Busters will also be on hand composing poetry on demand during the weekend. The Houston literary journal, Gulf Coast, presents a reading by local writers Julia Brown, BJ Love, Jonathan Moody, Aliah Lavonne Tigh, and Ching-In Chen on Saturday.
- If you’ve ever driven down Kirby Drive and wondered about that giant green flower in front of West Ave, check out the film The Journey on Saturday at HAF. Journey tells the story of how the James Surl sculpture, Tree and Three Flowers first came to bloom in Houston.
- Renowned Chicano art collector might not be the first way the movie-going public identifies actor, comedian and director Cheech Marin, but museum across the country have exhibited his private collection. He makes an appearance at Silver Street on Saturday for a signing of his book Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper from the Cheech Marin Collection. Come to hear his views on Chicano art, stay for the tastings of his new artisanal Tres Papalote Mezcal.
Both fairs are also offering off-site tours of some of the most intriguing private collections in town. Most of these works are rarely on view to the public, so if you’ve ever wanted to see what art lies behind closed doors, make sure to get a VIP pass and sign up for these tours early. Maybe you’ll find inspiration to begin your own collection.