With the Houston Fine Art Fair opening to the public Friday at the George R. Brown Convention Center, fair director Fran Kaufman spoke with CultureMap to shed light on curating the Bayou City's first international art show.
Three successful seasons as director of palmbeach3 (now Art Palm Beach) allowed Kaufman to build a reputation for breathing new life into the art fair format. Revamping the South Florida city’s decade-old art and antique show, Kaufman offered a wide swath of contemporary art, design, photography, speaking to the buying trends of a more localized art market.
Specializing in a brand of “boutique-style” shows, Hamptons Expo Group — which produces annual art shows in San Francisco, Aspen, and the Hamptons — hired Kaufman earlier this year to replace director Max Fishko, finding her curatorial approach a perfect match for the intimacy HEG hopes to achieve in Houston.
Fishko’s new art fair company artMRKT will launch its inaugural Texas Contemporary Art Fair at the George R. Brown Oct. 21-23. Rough waters within the city’s art community calmed over the summer, with major local galleries like Moody and Sicardi electing to maintain a presence at both fairs.
Latin American art will be an additional focus throughout the fair, with a talk on the influence of historic Latin American movements on today’s artists working around the world.
A distinctly international show with a concentration on both postwar art and contemporary work, Houston Fine Art Fair presents more than 80 dealers from the United States, Europe and Latin America. Museum-quality pieces will be available from 20th-century stalwarts like Robert Rauschenberg and Willem de Kooning, in addition to emerging artists such as Isca Greenfield-Sanders and Chul-Hyun Ahn.
Latin American art will be an additional focus throughout the fair, with a talk on the influence of historic Latin American movements on today’s artists working around the world. On the fair’s main floor, works from current artists like Argentine Graciela Sacco and Guatemalan photographer Luis Gonzalez-Palma will be showcased with icons like Venezuelan op-artist Carlos Cruz-Diez and Cuban painter Wifredo Lam.
An additional exhibit on contemporary Latin American photography will be presented by FotoFest. Kaufman worked as a portfolio reviewer for Fotofest's 2004 biennial.
“You need to look at what works in a particular city and its unique collecting practices,” Kaufman told CultureMap from her offices in New York, where she continues to work as a curator and art advisor. She stages international exhibitions, in addition to maintaining a client list that has included Magnum Photos and the Soros Foundation.
She said the Houston fair is curated to appeal to the city’s “broad range of collectors,” from established buyers to burgeoning aficionados. Through the Collectors Forum series, the Houston Fine Art Fair will present public talks on collecting fine art photography and the aesthetic, emotional and economic measures of acquiring art.
Also scheduled are on-stage interviews with internationally-recognized artist Donald Sultan and three-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee.
“We’ve worked closely with Joseph Havel at the Glassell to promote emerging artists during the fair,” she said. “The school’s Core Fellowship Program will have a dedicated booth on the floor showing the work of 12 fellows — four incoming, four current and four recent graduates.”
Concerning Houston’s galleries and institutions, Kaufman said, “I’ve never met a more welcoming community — extraordinarily warm and welcoming.” She looks forward to meeting collectors firsthand this weekend.
“It’s been important for us to establish lasting relationships throughout the city,” Kaufman continued. “The Houston Fine Art Fair is a long-term event and, as these relations deepen, the quality of the show can only get better every year.”
Houston Fine Art Fair runs Friday through Sunday at the George R. Brown. Tickets are $17 a day or $26 for a three-day pass. The show runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.