A boost for cultural tourism?

Texas Contemporary Art Fair organizers tout Houston as America's next great art fair city

Texas Contemporary Art Fair organizers tout Houston as America's next great art fair city

News_Max Fishko_Jeffrey Wainhause_Texas Contemporary
Max Fishko, left, and Jeffrey Wainhause of Texas Contemporary
News_Texas Contemporary Art Fair_2011_logo
News_Max Fishko_Jeffrey Wainhause_Texas Contemporary
News_Texas Contemporary Art Fair_2011_logo

"When it rains, it pours."

That's the way Jeffrey Wainhause, managing partner of the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, describes the crowded art fair scene in Houston this fall. Despite an abundance of wealthy collectors and a thriving environment for the visual arts, the Bayou City has largely been bypassed on the fine art fair circuit.

Until now.

Two major art fairs will be held in the Bayou City for the first time, within a month of each other. The Houston Fine Art Fair takes place next week (Sept. 16-18, with preview party Sept. 15) at the George R. Brown Convention Center. And about a month later (Oct. 21-23, with preview party Oct. 20), the Texas Contemporary Art Fair opens in the same location.

Why is Houston suddenly so hot in the cool art world?

Texas Contemporary Art Fair director Max Fishko believes that Houston is an untapped market as dealers look beyond the traditional art capitals of New York, London and Los Angeles to expand. "You have a fantastic young professional community here. And when you have the sixth best endowed museum in the country (the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), along with the Contemporary Arts Museum and the Menil, it's just a matter of time before people pay attention," Fishko said over a recent breakfast interview while in town to tout the fair.

  "The fact that there's been nothing here (before) is perfectly ridiculous. Instead of people asking why are there two fairs, they should be asking why aren't there 10?"

 Much has been made about the odd timing of two big art fairs coming to Houston within a month, but Fishko brushes aside questions of whether there are enough art aficionados to support both events. "The fact that there's been nothing here (before) is perfectly ridiculous. Instead of people asking why are there two fairs, they should be asking why aren't there 10?"

As the name suggests, the Texas Contemporary Art Fair will focus on modern works of art, with 60 gallery dealers from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, Chicago, Tokyo and Buenos Aires who will set up shop at the George R. Brown. Participating Houston galleries include Texas Gallery, Inman Gallery, Wade Wilson Art, Moody Gallery and Sicardi Gallery, as well as San Antonio's David Shelton Gallery and Austin's Champion Gallery. 

To tie in closely with the Houston contemporary art community, the duo has enlisted such entities as Art League Houston, DiverseWorks, Project Row Houses, Skydive, The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, The Orange Show, Spring Street Studios and Winter Street Studios as cultural partners. The preview party on Oct. 20 will benefit the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

Wainhause and Fishko, whose artMRKT Productions organizes annual art fairs in San Francisco and the Hamptons, believe the Texas Contemporary Art Fair will be distinctive because it will feature a lot of new contemporary work, including promising regional art. "You cannot go to New York, Miami or LA to see this art. We have a collection of dealers who are really unique," Fishko said.

And, in a salute to Houston's status as the nation's energy capital, energy-themed art projects like Mexico City-based artist Edgar Orlaineta's Solar Nothing, a mixed media work inspired by Charles Eames' Solar Do-Nothing Toy, will be highlighted at the fair.

The duo believes that the Texas Contemporary Art Fair can draw 10,000 art lovers and the art curious to Houston, which is, coincidentally, the same figure organizers of the Houston Fine Art Fair are using. Whether upwards of 20,000 will attend the two fairs remains to be seen, but Wainhause and Fishko are convinced that Houston can support both fairs and would like to make the Texas Contemporary an annual event.

"It helps bring more people to Houston and creates cultural tourism. But it doesn't happen overnight. You need to do that for several years," Wainhause said.

Texas Contemporary Art Fair will take place Oct. 21-23 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, with benefit preview party for Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and VIP preview party Oct. 20. One-day ticket $20, three-day ticket $40, three-day ticket plus CAMH and VIP preview parties $100. Click here for information.