Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday Afternoon at the Houston Fine Art Fair

by Robert Boyd

random art lovers
Art lovers

This is my first art fair. I showed up after work Friday to check out the scene. I tried to take a brief look at each exhibitor, but even so, it took about an hour and a half to do the whole circuit. I'll have more to say about some of the art and galleries (I'm going back today), but here are a few observations and a couple of pieces I liked.

I've been to plenty of conventions--I used to go to Book Expo America and the American Library Association convention every year, and I've been to both the Offshore Oil Technology Conference and the San Diego Comic-Con several times. At a professional convention, you may be doing some business, but a lot of what you do is walk around, exchange business cards, and load up on freebies. But Comic-Con (and all other comics conventions) involve selling stuff--they are consumer conventions. Another type of consumer convention is a gun show. According to a billboard I saw outside the George R. Brown convention center, there is a gun show there every month. (I guess the Zetas have to restock frequently!) Art fairs are consumer expos, just like comic book conventions and gun shows.

entryway into Houston Fine Art Fair
ticket takers

The ticket booths were very mod looking, but the rest of the fair was a minimal operation. They didn't even put carpet down. Walking around for hours on concrete is no fun.

couple looking at art

There were lots of couples looking at art. I've heard that collecting is a couple's activity, and it makes sense. You're buying a piece of art for a lot of money--it should be something that both of you love. But it's interesting that this is the case--the cliche is that husbands don't like to shop. But you couldn't tell it with the many couples--often holding hands (aw!)--that I saw there.

folks at opening night (photo by William White)

I was expecting people to be dressed to the nines or at least in identifiable designer clothes. My friend Bill White said it was a little like that at the opening party, but Friday afternoon was pretty casual.

Girl at Moody Gallery
woman at the Moody Gallery booth

Of course, the people working the booths looked pretty good. That is pretty typical of conventions of all sorts--hence the term "booth babe."

Booth babe at Colton & Farb
"booth babe" with Botero at Colton & Farb

Not only were there a lot of Latin American galleries (as I mentioned in an earlier post), but many of the U.S. based galleries exhibiting here, particularly those from Florida, specialized in Latin American art. This seemed like the major theme of the show. Additionally, there were a lot of prosperous-looking art lovers speaking Spanish at the show. Were they part of the local Hispanic elite, or were they folks who had traveled from Spanish-speaking countries just for the show?

crowd in a booth
crowd at YAM Gallery, a gallery from Mexico

The age of attendees skewed older than the general population, as you would expect. Art collecting is an expensive hobby, and the population gets richer as it gets older on average.

looking at art
sharp-dressed older gent

Was art selling? I'll try to find out more today, but I saw at least one red dot on a large Omar Chacon painting at Margaret Thatcher.

Omar Chacon painting

Lest this become nothing more than a collection of photos of rich people and hipsters, I'm going to publish some photo of art that I liked.

Margaret Bowland, They Say It's Wonderful, oil on linen, 2009

This little black girl, posing in "whiteface," is a simultaneously beautiful and disturbing image. Margaret Bowland's statement will hardly mitigate the disturbing nature of the work--it includes the following, "As the painter, the observer of these young women, I am a predator, but it is the desire humans have had since the beginning of time—to hunt and consume their prey and dissolve within their spirits…scarily close to what we mean when we say we love." You can see this at the Babcock Galleries booth.

Lordan Bunch, Amiable Studies White, oil on ouija board

I liked these paintings by Lordon Bunch at Schroeder Romero & Shredder, but when I saw that they were painted on ouija boards, I had to laugh out loud.

piece by Sarah Frost (detail)

Sarah Frost has a whole wall full of old keyboard letters at the William Shearburn booth. The funny thing is that it makes no sense to photograph the whole thing--it becomes kind of a blurry pattern--and a detail gives you no idea of the effect it has. So I filmed it.

Sarah Frost installation


1 comment:

  1. Stop on by the HAA booth (P-8). I'll be there after 3. Would be nice to see you in real life again.