art and commerce

Overheard at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair

There was no better place for people-watching (or people-listening) this weekend than the George R. Brown Convention Center.

By Michael Hardy September 8, 2014

The fourth annual Texas Contemporary art fair, which wrapped up on Sunday, featured around 50 galleries from around the country, including 18 from Houston. Despite being an official VIP—I have the laminated red card to prove it—I regrettably missed the benefit preview reception and VIP party on Thursday night, which, according to no less an authority than Shelby Hodge, featured "sophisticated appetizers." 

Indeed, I almost missed the fair entirely. On Sunday afternoon around three, right as the Texans were doing a victory lap around the team-that-shall-not-be-named from Washington, D.C., I suddenly realized that I had a scant few hours left to catch the fair before it closed. I jumped in my car and headed over to the George R. Brown Convention Center, where, after spending 15 minutes walking from one end of the building to the other trying to locate the correct hall, I breezed through the entrance, passed by two showroom Infinitis and a stack of free Wall Street Journals, and entered the melee. To my right, I spotted a helpful map of the fair at the Art League of Houston booth.

For the visitor's convenience, certain points of interest were marked.

There was even a useful supply of red dot stickers (sadly depleted by the time I arrived.) 

At this point, I began circulating the cavernous hall, keeping my ears open for clues for how to appreciate the bewildering variety of art on display. Below, a few selections from the babble:

Gallerist: "The two art fairs [Texas Contemporary and the Houston Fine Art Fair, which arrives later this month] hate each other and they're always fighting to get ahead of the other. Personally, I wish they would just get over it and have their fairs on the same weekend. Make it one big thing." 

Visitor: "I just wonder whether it will scare my kids."

Gallerist: "It's a celebration of life and death. It's not supposed to be morbid or scary. There's no profanity or anything—it should be fine for children." 

Gallerist: "This one is done by a practitioner of Chinese medicine. He does most of these works blindfolded."

Visitor: "That's amazing." 

Visitor: "The hands are one of the hardest things you can do. The feet she got perfect, but the hands aren't quite right." [For the record, they looked alright to me.]

Visitor: "I definitely like the size of the larger one. And it's got more white space."


Visitor: "Seeing all these eyeglasses together takes me to a bad place." 

At the VIP Lounge ("designed by MaRS, furnished by Ligne Roset"): "It's all subjective." 

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