Texas Contemporary Art Fair 101 — the Best Booths, Collector Picks and Stars to See

The Ultimate Guide to Houston's Art Bonanza

BY Catherine D. Anspon // 10.10.19

The Texas Contemporary — an event that defines fall in Houston for the collector set — returns for year eight this Thursday through Sunday, October 10 through 13.

It’s Houston’s entrée in the Brooklyn-based Art Market Productions portfolio of art fairs, which includes the Paul Allen-endorsed Seattle Art Fair, Market Art + Design in the Hamptons, Art on Paper in New York City, Art Market San Francisco, and (in partnership) the upcoming Prospect 5 in New Orleans.

Since its launch in 2011, the Texas Contemporary has contributed vital dollars to benefit Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (to date, in the hefty six figures), supported Houston artists, and brought to town a litany of headliners, most notably Michael Chow (aka Mr. Chow) and the Haas Brothers.

The Texas Contemporary takes over George R. Brown Convention Center, presenting an of-the-moment view of contemporary art and design via more than 60 galleries traveling in from both coasts and Canada.

Hopes are high that year eight will build upon the success of 2018, where thousands flocked to the GRB, with strong sales and much fanfare. Here is our preview of what’s new and what’s next — and the best booths this year.

Design Matters

The Texas Contemporary continues to push out design as part of its mantra and messaging. The fair’s biggest coup is exhibiting the Black Artists + Designers Guild, a New York-based, globally focused collective of talents typified by the pared-down beauty of Ethiopian-American Jomo Tariku’s furniture.

Jomo Tariku’s Nyala Chair, 2018, at the Black Artists + Designers Guild

Set up like a museum exhibition, the BA + DG wares will be available for acquisition and include ceramics by Malene Barnett and lighting by studio PGRB.

Houston design exhibitors include Carol Piper Rugs and the recently minted Shop by Adam Cook, who curates a selection of CC- Tapis’ Rug Invaders collection, lighting by Bocci, and glass vases by OAO Works. And just in at press time, Reeves Antiques steps up, including showing work by co-owner Matthew Reeves, which possess a handsome time-capsule vibe.

Omer Arbel’s 84.2 Vases for OAO Works, at Shop

Another design high point is always the VIP Lounge; once again, BeDesign has been tapped to create the experience, selecting furniture and design objects culled from its international designer roster.

Top Stops

Judith Linhares, Feast, 2011, at Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art

This year’s fair largely looks outside Texas, with the exception of these late-breaking additions to the exhibitor lineup, all Houston-based, and recommended: the project space 14 Pews highlighting feminist imagery by founder Cressandra Thibodeaux that is particularly prescient during this news cycle; Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, with its strong stable of Texas and national painters, including Judith Linhares‘ smart take on being a woman in the 21st century; Foto Relevance, exploring fresh, important voices in contemporary photography, often via media beyond the silver gelatin print; Foltz Fine Art, where works by Texan Billy Hassell pair a dialogue about nature with vibrant patterning and palette; and Zoya Tommy Gallery, showcasing the late Guus Kemp‘s idiosyncratic, yet compelling, riotous oil painting.

Margeaux Walter’s Borderline, 2015, at Foto Relevance

Other dealers flock primarily from New York, California, and Florida. Melissa Morgan Fine Art, Palm Desert, brings mystical geometric boxes by Brit/L.A. artist Anthony James — portals into monumental worlds of nature and science.

Adamar Fine Arts, which helped birth Miami’s Design District, offers a roster of contemporary masters, including works by Julian Opie, Damien Hirst, Robert Longo, Donald Sultan, and streetwise Mr. Brainwash (a memorable portrait of Kate Moss).

Mr. Brainwash’s Kate Moss, 2018, at Adamar Fine Arts

Two heritage names in the New York gallery scene promise an impact: Spanierman Modern and Adelson Galleries. At the former, a standout is a heroic mid-1980s colorfield canvas by the late Dan Christensen; the latter’s Pop-inflected sculptures by Federico Uribe are formed from bullet shells.

Also worth noting are ZieherSmith, and Alpha 137 Gallery, New York fine art booksellers turned art dealers who feature a knockout Marina Abramovic self-portrait with scorpion — one of the defining images of this year’s fair — as well as stocking a comedic work on paper by John Waters extolling the virtues of Marfa.

John Waters’ Welcome to Marfa, 2003, at Alpha 137 Gallery

From the other coast, Santa Monica gallerist Axiom Contemporary showcases its Pop- and street-art stable, including Bogotá lensman Max Steven Grossman’s bookscapes comprised of 50 to 60 composite images to recreate a collector’s dream-library shelves.

San Francisco gallerist K. Imperial Fine Art emphasizes the star of its stable: Tahiti Pehrson, whose intricate cut-paper sculptures speak to mathematics, patterning, space, and time. Pasadena, California-based Arcadia Contemporary rolls out its lineup of figurative realism.

Further north, Lustre Contemporary represents Canadian talent, including Alice Zilberberg and her heroic photographic portrait of a lone bison.

Alice Zilberberg’s Be Here Bison, 2019, at Lustre Contemporary

For a photo finish, Stephen L. Clark Gallery, Austin’s esteemed photographic source, is setting up shop. Pan American Art Projects, in from Miami, is devoted to works encompassing the Americas — Cuba, U.S., Argentina, and the Caribbean; it’s owned by Robert Borlenghi, brother of Houston real estate magnate Giorgio Borlenghi.

Finally, during your fair perambulations, don’t be startled by sculptures of mammoth sea slugs rendered in Styrofoam: They’ve benevolent creations by hometown artist/scientist Suzette Mouchaty, presented by Houston dealer Anya Tish Gallery.

Suzette Mouchaty’s Nudibranch I, 2018, presented by Anya Tish Gallery in the fair’s public space

TC Calendar + Not-to-Miss Programming

Experience the fair through its VIP perks, which include cocktails at such unique venues as the penthouse of the Mellie Esperson Building, collector tours, and museum experiences (Benefit Preview Pass, $100, provides VIP access; available online).

Programming open to all fair ticket holders include transactional art and law issues addressed by attorney Sammetria Goodson, Saturday, October 12, 11:30 am; Trinity University’s Dr. Kathryn O’Rourke speaking on postmodernism in Houston, organized by Preservation Houston, Saturday, October 12, 2 pm; “Artistic Activism” curated by 14 Pews with panelists Cressandra Thibodeaux, Jesse Lott, Henry G. Sanchez, and Marti Corn, Sunday, October 13, 12:30 pm; and a panel with Black Artists and Designers Guild, Sunday, October 13, 2 pm.

Opening Night Thursday, October 10, 6 to 10 pm: The Benefit Preview supports Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (tickets $100); 7:30 pm onward, the viewing party continues, open to VIP Pass holders.

Fair days are Friday, October 11 through Sunday, October 13; day pass $25, multi-day $35.

For more information, the gallery roster, programming and tickets, click here

All images courtesy the artists and their respective galleries.

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