Pop goes the art scene
Introducing the Brayer Room, Houston's first pop-up art gallery
Ephemeral cultural venues have reached their apex in major metropolises, and now, Houston can claim its first pop-up art gallery. The brainchild of artist Esther Gutstein, the roving Brayer Room will soon be popping up monthly all over the city, from warehouses to abandoned shoe stores.
The gallery pro tem represents a revelation in the system of stalwart rows of permanent galleries. For the Brayer Room, the experience is more about the discovery of art than its mere retail value.
"It started because I was driving around Houston and I saw these beautiful abandoned spaces that had been for lease forever," the Bayou City-native says. "I know there are a lot of pop-up restaurants, so I thought, 'Hey, why can't I do that with art?' "
She delved into researching local real estate, conversing with property owners and fellow artists and navigating the inner workings of already-in-existence pop-up art spaces in London and New York. Rather than getting the cold shoulder from non-art-world real estate professionals, she noted an enthusiastic reception toward the concept. For Gutstein and her exhibited artists, the recession will potentially yield a boon to creative production.
"In Houston, we have these warehouses and really cool underground arts scene," she says, describing her immersion into the artist selection process. The final list, which includes herself, Lisa Qualls, George Manzur, Jarod Griffith and Richard Cartaxo, is oriented toward quality rather than an overriding concept or medium.
"I didn't want to make the show cliche by implementing a theme," Gutstein explains. "I wanted really great artwork within a really cool space."
As for herself, Gutstein has enjoyed the ride of designing multiple spaces, not only with the art in mind, but the experience of a space in itself. The Brayer Room's kickoff is slated for Jan. 22 at the warehouse district's Dakota Lofts, where Gutstein knows a resident photographer.
"It's a beautiful space," she says. "Since it's primarily used for photography, it has a lot of windows. That's actually a challenge for displaying artwork, but I like it."
At Brayer Room, the space itself becomes a form of performance art.
We can anticipate future pop-up Brayer Room shows in unexpected enclaves (Gutstein hints at a subsequent gallery pro tem in an old taco shop in the Heights). "It's more about discovering art than viewing," she argues.
The prospective sites will remain under wraps until shortly before each opening, but she admits that her dream venue is the former Bookstop storefront, originally the Alabama Theater.
"I hope it becomes a trend," she says of the pop-up gallery scheme. "It would really aid in the gentrification of these neighborhoods that are otherwise going under."
Step one in that gentrification: gourmet JELL-O shots. Along with invigorating artwork, Gustein has promised to provide couture gelatin cocktails at the kickoff party on Jan. 22, which will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at Dakota Lofts (711 William St., Suite 201).