The Texas Contemporary Art Fair rolls into Houston this month. Who are the players? The important artists? Catherine D. Anspon investigates year two of the acclaimed Fair, which pulls in 70 galleries worldwide and a coterie of collectors. Here’s an insider preview of all the action — including a side of controversy — come October 18 through 21.
Two Fairs Are Better Than One
Once again this fall, Texas art audiences — big-name collectors, coveted artists, powerful museum types and our most eminent gallerists, all manner of media and the merely curious — are treated to back-to-back art fairs. Is Houston an art capital, or what? For the second year in a row, the Texas Contemporary Art Fair (the TC, as we like to call it) takes place in October (weeks after the Houston Fine Art Fair). Showcasing nearly 70 exhibitors and once again returning to the George R. Brown Convention Center, the Texas Contemporary strikes a bold, brash and important stance. Read on.
Last year’s TC was distinguished by a playful, messy vitality — sprawling aisles laid out on a horizontal grid, encircled by shipping containers like stage coaches around an art encampment. At its center, installations spilled over into walkways, capped by Austinite Andy Coolquitt’s fantastic and strange assemblage of materials (from worn pants to Warholian consumer packaging). This year, we have the promise of more art interventions — don’t miss Agnes Denes’ teepees (or are they pyramids) as environmental statements at the nonprofit Ballroom Marfa; Austin-based collaborative Okay Mountain’s performance sponsored by Mark Moore Gallery; Ariane Roesch’s Unit shopping experience stocked with affordable, collectible multiples; and Glasstire’s booth, which we hope promises another watering hole like the 2011 Fair’s old-timey GT salon/saloon.
Texas Best, L.A. Cool, Manhattan Express and A Dose of Internationals are some of the themes and subplots that characterize this year’s convergence. Fourteen Texas dealers and a bookseller (Houston’s Exquisite Corpse) comprise the statewide lineup, including the mighty Texas Gallery and Inman Gallery, the Houston notables who once again help shape the Fair, led respectively by Fredericka Hunter and Kerry Inman. Other members of the Houston pack are tastemaker Art Palace, Latin American nexus Sicardi Gallery, the always important Moody Gallery, Wade Wilson Art (ask to see anything by Joseph Marioni), the progressive and original Rudolph Blume Fine Art and recent arrival David Shelton Gallery, the latter an eagerly awaited San Antonio transplant. We’re also tracking the gold-standard Lora Reynolds Gallery and the up-and-comer Dutton (HQ for Marjorie Schwarz’s compelling figuration), both from Austin. Rounding out the Texans are our favorite Dallas trio Conduit Gallery, Marty Walker Gallery
and Kirk Hopper Fine Art (where Bill Haveron’s obsessive five-by-seven-feet drawings reign) joined by Fort Worth stalwart William Campbell Contemporary Art. Amid the out-of-towners, best bets are the fearless New York dealers Hudson of Feature Inc. and P.P.O.W Gallery, which unfurls Bo Bartlett’s unsettling realism. From Los Angeles, pay attention to the revered Acme with the frisky abstract paintings of Tomory Dodge and one of our top pics from the 2011 TC Fair, Steve Turner Contemporary, with its hard-hitting, classically based, figure-and-text installation Philomela (2012) by Jacob Yanes. Then check out Tracey Snelling’s miniature storefronts, which are anything but droll at San Francisco stop Rena Bransten Gallery. And we’re also intrigued to discover minimalist-flavored offerings by Tokyo gallerist Misako and Rosen.
The Fair Makers
The Texas Contemporary is produced by artMRKT, the Brooklyn-based enterprise headed by managing partners Jeffrey Wainhause and Max Fishko, who also present fairs in San Francisco, Miami and Bridgehampton. The pair has sagely aligned itself once again with the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; the Fair’s Preview Party on Thursday, October 18 benefits the CAMH. New for 2012 will be a tweaked layout and expanded collector and VIP lounges. Returning will be the popular PaperCity Curate book boutique headlined by art and design volumes plus a few surprise personal appearances, as well as the TC’s intriguing lecture series. Stay tuned.
Big-Bucks Art Prize
And the Texas Contemporary welcomes Franklin Sirmans back to town. The former Menil curator/now Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA) chief curator returns to Houston to judge the inaugural Texas Contemporary Award, in tandem with CAMH director Bill Arning. The hefty $10,000 art prize will be presented among the playing field on view at the exhibiting spaces, one artist nominated per participating gallery. Juried on Friday, October 19, the winner will be announced Saturday, October 20 (4 pm), and be showcased at an upcoming public lecture at the CAMH with Arning (date TBD).
Pssst: Revealing Portraits
Visit Asia Society Texas Center’s booth for a participatory preview of “The Hapa Project” by Kip Fulbeck, which goes on view at ASTC this November. (Its title is taken from a slang term for persons of Asian and/or Pacific origin.) Fair-goers will have the chance to make their own photo portrait via vintage cameras and answer the open-ended question posed by the artist about identity, “What are you?”
Save These Art Dates
Texas Contemporary Art Fair
Opening Night: Thursday, October 18, 6 – 9:30 pm (benefits CAMH)
Fair Days: Friday and Saturday, October 19 and 20, 11 am – 7 pm; Sunday, October 21, noon – 6 pm
Where: George R. Brown Convention Center
Tariff: Preview Pass (including Opening Night, all Fair days and VIP lounge and VIP tours and events) $100; three-day admission $35; one-day admission $20
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; txcontemporary.com