Houston Fine Art Fair
Sep 20–22. $25–40. Fri & Sat 11–7; Sun 11–6. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas.
Texas Contemporary Art Fair
Oct 10–13. Check website for prices and times. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas.
New York has the Armory Show. London has Frieze. Miami has Art Basel. But until three years ago, Houston didn’t have a single art fair. Whether you love them or loathe them—whether you consider them a welcome democratization of contemporary art or the epitome of everything wrong with it—art fairs are now ubiquitous, the sine qua non of any aspiring art capital. But when it rains, it pours (money, of course—this is the art world we’re talking about), and Houston can now boast not one but two art fairs of its own: the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, which arrives in October, and the Houston Fine Art Fair, which pitches its tents at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Sep. 20.
“We have rather rapidly grown into being a major arts destination, but our visibility has not really caught up with our offerings,” says Jonathon Glus, the president and CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance. “Having a fine art fair here attracts visitors to Houston, and it also attracts media. So it really elevates the visibility of contemporary art here in Houston, and the visibility of Houston as an arts center.”
If you’ve never been to an art fair, imagine it as a combination of the MFAH, the Galleria, and a downtown nightclub. It’s a place to see art—lots of art. The Houston Fine Art Fair will feature around 80 galleries showing approximately 3,000 works by 400 or so artists, with an estimated total value of around $100 million. But also, and just as big of a draw for the crowds (12,000 visitors flocked to last year’s festival), an art fair is a place to see and be seen by the art world cognoscenti.
Unlike the Texas Contemporary, which focuses on contemporary work by regional and national artists, the Houston Fine Art Fair has established a reputation for featuring international art. In addition to its typically strong selection of Latin and South American galleries, this year’s fair will include a South Korean pavilion. “Since Houston is international in scope, we wanted to have an international fair,” says fair organizer Rick Friedman, whose company also runs fairs in Aspen, the Hamptons, Palm Springs, and Silicon Valley. “If you go to a gallery, you can get pigeonholed into one or two artists—the selection isn’t very wide. But if you come to a show like ours, you’re going to see 80 galleries from around the world. You’re guaranteed to find something you like. There’s treasures for every budget.”