Meet me at the Fairs
When it comes to international art fairs, is two company?
Houston audiences will find out this fall, when the already-announced Houston Fine Art Fair, scheduled for Sept. 16 through 18, will be followed by the Texas Contemporary art fair one month later. Slated for Oct. 20 through 23, the inaugural Texas Contemporary will present roughly 50 contemporary art dealers from around the world at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Texas Contemporary is organized by Brooklyn-based art fair producer artMRKT, which already presents similar events in San Francisco and the Hamptons. Incidentally, the fair's managing partner, Max Fishko, was previously affiliated with HEG Shows, the company that is producing the Houston Fine Art Fair (which also organizes art fairs in San Francisco and the Hamptons, as well as in Aspen).
"What we're doing is pretty special because we're focusing solely on contemporary work with a further focus on work that's being made by people living and working in Texas today," Fishko tells CultureMap. He views Texas Contemporary as an "opportunity to showcase what's happening in Texas that might otherwise be overlooked," especially by younger artists that are represented by younger galleries.
At the fair, a proposals section will showcase progressive works in solo booths from Texas-based artists. Still, the scope of artists and audiences is projected towards a national and international level. "What's interesting is that it won't be the usual suspects," says Fishko.
He explains that Texas Contemporary's October timeline is ideal because of the mild local weather and that the date "fits nicely" into the local arts calendar. Although it follows London's Frieze Art Fair by one week, he says, "there are no other U.S. fairs going on in close proximity."
Local stalwart galleries Inman Gallery and Texas Gallery are already enrolled to exhibit. "Most galleries have finite resources, and I had to make a difficult decision as to which fair would be better for Inman Gallery," says Kerry Inman, adding that she liked the smaller size of Texas Contemporary and the timing was preferable because of weather and previous commitments during September.
Fredericka Hunter, director of Texas Gallery, also preferred the later date and that Texas Contemporary focuses on contemporary art. "When I think of September in Houston, I think of heat and hurricanes," she says.
She was also deterred by Houston Fine Art Fair's aligning itself with the concurrent Houston Antiques Dealer Association show, which will be held adjacent to HFAF at the Geroge R. Brown Convention Center. Because of its focus on Latin American art, HFAF "is not where we belong," she says. "I'm interested in young people, younger galleries, benefiting non-profits and some of the effort going on in Houston being showcased."
Texas Contemporary has logically aligned itself with the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, which will cohost a benefit preview party on Oct. 20. "The idea of 'contemporary' has to do with the global cultural and social issues of the moment," says CAMH director Bill Arning. "The fact that the Texas Contemporary is dedicated to those values is really important to me."
He adds that the strong advisory committee that includes Inman, Hunter and Catharine Clark of San Francisco increased the fair's appeal. Explains the museum director, "The importance of a fair comes from the artists you get to see, and such a strong committee meant they would be bringing in top talent."
Even so, HFAF has signed with several local galleries, including Hiram Butler Gallery, Barbara Davis Gallery, McClain Gallery and Meredith Long & Co.
Hunter suggests that buzz is growing for Texas Contemporary, referencing dealers in LA, New York and New Orleans calling her to find out more about the event — although some are ringing just to clarify why there are now two fairs.
The event's organizers are still in the process of gathering applications. "We've kept our price for exhibitors pretty reasonable," says Fishko, suggesting that the event will cull a fresh generation of dealers.
To ingratiate itself into the local community, the fair is presenting MRKTworks, a small-scale online and live auction that will launch two weeks prior to the fair. Featuring artworks donated by participating dealers, proceeds will benefit "key" non-profits in Houston.
Tickets for Texas Contemporary go on sale online Aug. 1. Admission for a single day is $20, ($25 at the door) and $40 for a three day ticket ($45 at the door). Entrance to the CAMH preview benefit is $100 and $110 at the door.