They'll be back next year

Inaugural Houston Fine Art Fair is a hit, with more than 10,500 visitors and millions in sales

Inaugural Houston Fine Art Fair is a hit, with more than 10,500 visitors and millions in sales

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Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2010, metal, courtesy Bentley Gallery. Photo by Tyler Rudick
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HFAF director, Fran Kaufman Photo by Priscilla Dickson
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Collector Marshal Lightman, artist Donald Sultan, and HFAF president Rick Friedman Marshal Lightman , Donald Sultan , Richard Friedman Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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Iska Greenfield-Sanders, Old Faithful, 2010 mixed media and oil on canvas diptych, courtesy Haunch of Venison, New York.
Houston Fine Art Fair
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News_Fine Art Fair_Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Old Faithful, 2010
Houston Fine Art Fair

The inaugural Houston Fine Art Fine made a huge splash this past weekend, as a sizable crowd kept surprised dealers busy for three straight days – even in a slow economy.

“We reached out to a new audience of art lovers in Houston,” said Rick Friedman, president of HFAF and owner of the fair’s organizer Hamptons Expo Group.

“We had over 10,500 people this weekend,” he reported. “There were millions in sales, although we won’t know for sure until we hear from all the dealers in the next month. We’re estimating anywhere between five to seven million dollars total.”

Offering over 80 galleries from the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, the fair was tailored to fit Houston’s unique art market, the third largest in the nation. Director Fran Kaufman curated a show with particular attention to mid-century Latin American art as well as a focus on younger contemporary artists.

 “This weekend’s fair exceeded expectations. There was a continuous flow of people, even at times when most art shows are typically slow. I suspect the Houston Fine Art Fair will be a recurring event for a long time.” 

“I really wanted to direct a fair in Houston,” Kaufman told CultureMap, before returning to her curatorial offices in New York. “It has such terrific institutions, collectors and non-profit organizations, yet nationally, it’s not really known as an art city.”

“This weekend’s fair exceeded expectations,” she said.  “There was a continuous flow of people, even at times when most art shows are typically slow. I suspect the Houston Fine Art Fair will be a recurring event for a long time.”

Kaufman organized a list of programs to educate Houston’s newer buyers and keep established collectors informed of the newest currents in the art market. Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist Edward Albee took a break from his playwriting course at the University of Houston to offer his thoughts on art collecting. Noted gallerists Oscar Cruz, Francisco Arevelo and Janda Wetherington, led a discussion on the increasing importance of historic Latin American movements among today’s working artists.

“Our friends and collectors in Houston suggested we focus on high-quality pieces,” said Haunch of Venison director Robert Goff, who gave a talk on emotional and economic criteria involved in acquiring art.

At the fair, Goff reported selling an important 1963 drawing by Argentine conceptual artist León Ferrari, an “important museum-quality piece that went to a local buyer.”  Haunch of Venison also sold a watercolor by emerging American artist Iska Greenfield-Sanders and is in talks with a buyer for a piece by Venezuelan op artist Jesús Rafael Soto.

“Saturday and Sunday were very busy with excellent curators and collectors,” he continued. “We very much look forward to coming next year.”

In a conversation with CultureMap, collector and philanthropist Marshal Lightman said dealers “were impressed by the high energy levels” they saw throughout the show.  Lightman, who made several purchases, was an integral figure in bringing the HFAF to the city with the support of the late Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Peter Marzio.

“Some of city’s top collectors will fly to New York, Los Angeles or Chicago and spend thousands on airfare and hotels – now they can spend that savings on art,” he said with a laugh.

With the Texas Contemporary Art Fair planned for the next month, the general sentiment from dealers and organizers was very positive.  On Friday evening, Carolyn Farb of Houston’s Colton & Farb gallery – which launched the current Yoko Ono billboard on I-45 South near downtown – said that sales were strong from the start, particularly after the busy HFAF preview party.

“I think the tide came in for Houston’s art scene this weekend,” Friedman said, as he prepares for his company’s next fair in Palm Springs.  “I expect the city’s galleries will see a substantial rise in sales in the coming weeks.  We’re excited whenever we can help people get beauty on their walls.”

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