It’s (Almost) Fall – And New Art Fairs Are Frolicking

From September 16th through October 23rd –  only four and a half weeks- three brand new dogs will fire up the art fair race faster than you can say barbie.

Because everything is bigger in Texas, Houston is getting two first-time art fairs – a month apart, in the same venue. The inaugural Houston Fine Arts Fair (HFAF), will run September 16-18, at Brown Convention Center. It’s a production of the art fair group Hamptons Expo -which also brings us Art Hamptons and Art-Aspen (having its second year this August 6-8; featured image above). Max Fishko, was the director of the HFAF until he left to start his own rival fair, Texas Contemporary, to occur from October 20-23 also at Brown Convention Center – after he signed up a bunch of Santa Fe dealers for HFAF. ( Fran Kaufman, who was director of the palmbeach3 contemporary art fair, replaced Fishko as HFAF director.)

Squeezing in-between on the calendar and on the west coast, a third new fair, Art Platform Los Angeles, is launching – from September 30-October 3; timed with the opening of the city-wide visual art phenomenon, underwritten by the Getty Foundation,  called Pacific Standard Time.  (Even if the layoffs at the LA Times haven’t so far hit the art writer ranks, Pacific Standard Time is undoubtedly seen as being a national draw for New York galleries to the West coast – even as the West coast asserts some overdue critical primacy for its 1945-1980 art.)

So, what’s in a name? What’s in a niche? And what’s in the politics? Plenty.

First to Houston.

Given the muddy and confusing cross-over of fair directors and the politics of galleries jumping on board the two new fairs, HFAF and Texas Contemporary, according to Texas’s art magazine Glasstire, and adobeairstream sources, are not too friendly (understatement) – although several Houston galleries (with deep pockets) have signed up to exhibit in  both, on the premise that 1) HFAF has a Latin America focus (just like the Armory show in New York did in March) and 2) Texas Contemporary will only be for contemporary art. Hedging bets as to where the buyers will go seems to be one position a dealer wishing to appear position-neutral could take.

Dizzy yet?

[From Glasstire:

Houston is a wonderful city whose charms are neither obvious nor conventional. It’s the third-largest art market in the US (at least according to HFAF press materials) and it’s got a great contemporary art scene, but it is no one’s idea of tourist destination – unlike, say, fair-filled cities such as New York and Miami. There is going to have to be something pretty great going on (seeFotoFest) to bring in hordes of art enthusiasts, let alone art buyers.]

Hm. Given how close this line of reasoning sounds to my argument re Art Santa Fe, the outcomes promise to get pretty darn interesting – provided that the old saw about the art business isnt’ the one that advises that the way to make $1 million is to start with $5 million.

HFAF for its part is being favored by Houston gallerists Barbara Davis, Hiram Butler and Anya Tish, as well as Moody, and Sicardi Gallery in Houston (more than 80 exhibitors total are now signed up.) From Satna Fe, exhibitors will include David Richard Contemporary, Zane-Bennett Contemporary, Gebert Contemporary, LewAllen, TAI Gallery, and Richard Levy from Abq. The Latin America focus at HFAF is bringing in galleries from Miami, Maracaibo, Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, Mexico City and La Paz, Bolivia, as well as one exhibitor from Havana, Servando Galeria. Exhibiting from Santa Fe at Art Platform-Los Angeles, meanwhile, will be David Richard Contemporary, James Kelly, and Dwight Hackett Projects.
The contemporary dealers who have gotten behind Texas Contemporary are Inman Gallery, and Fredericka Hunter, both of Houston, and Catharine Clark of San Francisco, who are listed as vetting the applicants to the TC fair on the fair website.

HFAF has made its opening night a benefit for the Museum of Fine Arts and Glassell School. Texas Contemporary is benefiting CAM (which by comparison to MFA has a teeny-weeny endowment.)

Given that all this new fair stuff comes on the heels of August in Santa Fe where SoFa West occurring this week is in year three, and, Aspen this week,  in year two –  this level of fair- or foul weather either will cement the city of Houston as being what the HFAF PR contends, actually the third largest art market in the country- and our little piece of paradise will soon represent overflow parking for the great republic of Texas – or this fall season will be one in which the game of musical fairs will play out.




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