Behind the buzz and inside the booths of year three, arts editor Catherine D. Anspon deciphers one of the most diverse fairs in America. From Latin American modern masters showcased by gallerists from Buenos Aires to Bogata — and, for the first time, a pavilion serving cutting-edge Korean fare — see who’s on our acquisitions antenna at HFAF come September.
Consider the stats: 84 galleries, 14 countries, 34 cities, 40 cultural partners, 12,000 plus expected attendance, millions of dollars of art changing hands. All those numbers add up to a convergence that signals importance when the Houston Fine Art Fair, year three, charges into town at the George R. Brown Convention Center September 19 through 22. Here’s why we’re going. And what you can’t afford to miss.
Down South: Latin America, Cuba and Miami Calling
The Houston Fine Art Fair mirrors the city’s position at the epicenter of modern and contemporary Latin American collecting — and as a force for scholarship, led by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s International Center for Arts of the Americas (ICAA) — by boasting an extraordinary contingent of dealers from Central and South America (Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico) alongside gallerists from Miami, Barcelona and Havana. Pay special attention to Galleria Rubbers International’s focus on Xul Solar, a rediscovered Argentine painter known for his eccentric watercolors considered by close pal Jorge Luis Borges to be “documents of the extraterrestrial world.” (Solar also makes a PA in the current Venice Biennale and is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Phoenix Art Museum next month.) Or peruse Local Arte Contemporaneo’s mirror on new art from Chile, and check out Miami-based Sammer Gallery’s booth stocked with works from a 2007 Rauschenberg Runt to a 1942 constructivist fresco upon canvas from the mighty Uruguay School of the South leader Joaquín Torres-García.
Another signature is the presence of The Korean Pavilion — the first time ever that new works from Seoul-based galleries have been exhibited in such depth in a contemporary fair outside one devoted strictly to Asian art. Fourteen dealers present the new avant-garde, including Pyo Gallery’s immersive nature-based photos by Keun-Byung Yook; Park Ryu Sook Gallery, whose booth stars a bright red Bodhisattva by Ho Yoon Shin; and Keumsan Gallery’s captivating stainless-steel wire-mesh 3-D portrait by Seung Mo Park. Also noteworthy and representing the Korean cutting-edge is JanKossen Contemporary, based in Basel, Switzerland, whose booth includes Suh Jeong Min, recently tapped to create a monumental work during this year’s installment of the Venice Biennale (presented at Palazzo Bembo).
Ten (More) to See
We highly recommend: among the British contingent, Winston Roeth’s pristine geometric paintings at Bartha Contemporary, London; a museum-quality collection of three epic works by the late Houston-based patriarch/Prix de Rome winner Bert Long Jr., at Deborah Colton Gallery, destined to bring a sense of the authentic to the Fair; storied NYC dealer ACA Gallery’s African-American offerings, from Romare Bearden to Jacob Lawrence and Faith Ringgold; Dallas-based Read Contemporary’s take on aboriginal painters; hometown ace Devin Borden’s stable of Texas all stars; super-cool West Coast painter Chris Trueman’s solo at White Box Contemporary, in from San Diego; Michigan-based Habitat Gallery’s roundup of hot works in contemporary glass; important international lensmen curated by Pictura Gallery, Bloomington, Indiana; Sandy Skoglund’s pioneering constructed images, which are freighted with humor, at Yvonamor Palix Fine Art; and scene-stealing larger-than-life photographs by Chinese-born new media photog Alex Guofeng Cao, who appropriates all the greats from Lichtenstein to Warhol, at Laura Rathe Fine Art.
Playing Tribute, Panels, Screenings
Rounding out the Fair fanfare is the Opening Night presentation of awards to worthy, world-class Houston honorees, including artist Robert Pruitt, whose trajectory has taken him from Texas Southern University to the Whitney Biennial and currently, Studio Museum in Harlem and the headliner in Hooks-Epstein Gallery’s booth. Pruitt is joined by Wendy Watriss and Fred Baldwin, the globe-trotting founders of FotoFest. Also watch for panels on topics from “Managing Your Collection as an Asset,” organized by US Trust, to a Wendy Watriss led Q-and-A on contemporary photography. We’re also lining up for film screenings including, at the top of the list, Bert by John Guess Jr., an extraordinary documentary of the Fifth Ward-born Bert Long Jr.; a peek at provocative performance art, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present; and Houston talent Tara Conley’s cinematic feminist statement, My Life as a Doll.
Why They’re Coming to Town
“For us, it’s is an excellent opportunity to exhibit modern Latin American masters to Houston’s large base of collectors. We were here at the first show and found a extremely knowledgeable audience … that is why we are going to exhibit museum-quality pieces in the 2103 edition.” — Ignacio Pedronzo, director, Sammer Gallery, Miami
“The close relationship with this city, and between the Museum Fine Arts, Houston, and its board with our Foundation — Fundación Pan Klub, Museo Xul Solar — is one of the main reasons to join this art fair.” — Maria Basile, Galeria Rubbers International, Buenos Aires
“I grew up in Houston, and after leaving in 2001, this is a coming home for me of sorts. It’s the first time I’m bringing my San Diego gallery to the one of America’s great contemporary art capitals, and I hope it is going to be the start of a long relationship.” — Alexander Salazar, owner/director, White Box Contemporary
Ready, Set, Collect:
Thursday, September 19: Black Card “Houston Is Inspired” first-look vernissage 6 – 7:30 pm, benefitting Houston Arts Alliance’s Business Volunteers for the Arts; VIP Preview Party, 7:30 – 9 pm
Fair Days: Friday – Saturday, September 20 – 21, 11 am – 7 pm; Sunday, September 22, 11 am – 6 pm
Where: George R. Brown Convention Center
Tariff: $250 Black Card includes Opening Night first access, VIP Lounge, panels, parties, tours and admission all three-days; $125 VIP Card includes Opening Night party at 7:30 plus all the above perks; $40 three-day pass; $25 one-day pass