My first art fair fell into my lap this year. This is the first of (that is not a promise) a few notes about what I thought of the Texas Contemporary and what it made me think about.
We—myself, Brian (Willey), and Brian (Fee)—drove down Saturday morning and arrived in Houston at 11 am just as the doors to the convention center opened and the group gathered in front sauntered in. Down an entryway lined with Cadillacs and past taller-than-life curtains, the convention center’s high ceilings and expanse opened up. Immediately, I spotted a sculpture by Jules Buck Jones, Lora Reynolds’ booth, and a group of Austin “art-power” gathered near the collector’s lounge (a grouping of couches). Handshakes and introductions finished, one collector said, “Let the races begin.”
His statement reminded me: this is about buying art.
The bright lights quite simply blinded me. The flood of art, booths, people, name tags, and labels gave me that deer in headlights feeling. We had to find a bathroom and searched around, the Brians shielded their eyes from seeing too much art on the way.
Bladders relieved, we went in. Just a third (wishful thinking, at that point) of the way through, a panel discussion was announced over the P.A. system. I could just make out the words as they travelled through the air. Fee led us to “Discussion Theatre” which was not an actual theatre after all. A makeshift area with chairs and a stage confronted us. With just a day to see the fair, we hemmed and hawed about sitting through a panel discussion. Yet, we sat down and waved to the artists on stage. I could hear the P.A. system in the main area, the mic’s weren’t working properly…we left about a half hour into the talk. They had just started to make conversation, but we felt we were losing too much time.
I never recovered from the blinding shock I felt when I walked into the fair. Brian and I split a sandwich and I dashed to the bar. I wished they had red wine and had to settle for gin. The gin gave my tongue some numbness to add to the numbness of my brain.
The trick is, I have a pile of gallery business cards with artist’s name written on the back. I remember one artist’s work because Brian went to look at it three times. Things I enjoyed were talking to people at the cultural sponsor tables, having an artist from Louisiana say hello to us after reading about us in New American Paintings, seeing Houston artists we just met, meeting Kelly and Bill of Glasstire, and visiting with other gallerists.
Perhaps, the bottom line is that Fairs are not for me. I’m not an art consumer on that level. Oh, I wish I had the funds, don’t you worry. But I’m not sure that even if I did, would I have purchased anything? It is hard in that mall – that fair – for me to connect with the art. My brain is instantly overloaded and there is no quiet. The booths lacked character between the color, blank faces of the tired (in some cases, indifferent) employees, and shuffle of feet.
Robert Boyd of The Great God Pan is Dead created a complimentary fair within walking distance of the Texas Contemporary. Seeing the work leaned against furniture and walls, in the refrigerator, installed in the shower, and tucked into drawers was absolutely perfect. We got to chat with Boyd and Emily Peacock (contributing artist, panelist to the discussion earlier, and photographer). The carpeted rooms and the ability to see artwork like you might set it up at your own home was perfection. Boyd mentioned the possibility of renting an entire floor next year. I hope he does.
Night fell and so did we. I needed a nap, food, and a glass of wine. We had dinner at a suggested restaurant in what happened to be a nice part of town. Mansions, teenagers in 60K cars, gated entrances, and chauffeured people. Then we headed to Poison Girl. It was fabulous. The bartenders looked like staff at Book People and I got a heavy pour of their cab. It was the perfect way to close the night.
The Isabella Court galleries opened up for coffee and breakfast tacos. We arrived early and hazily waited for coffee. Brian and I visited Inman and Art Palace a few months ago when we trekked down to Houston. Devin Borden and David Shelton galleries are new to us, and apparently new to the strip.
Visiting all four of these galleries verified that I actually enjoyed and responded to art. Maybe I just needed a breakfast taco.