There’s plenty of reasons for starting an art fair, but you rarely hear the line about non-profits yearning for one. That’s the story behind the Texas Contemporary Art Fair which gets underway this week at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center (which intentionally looks like a big boat). Run by Brooklyn-based artMRKT Productions, the fair looks impressive, and reflects its growing reputation in the contemporary art world.
Max Fishko, artMRKT co-founder and one of Texas Contemporary’s directors, says it was the late Peter Marzio, former Director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston who, during an art fair in Aspen, suggested he start his own. “There is a collector base here,” Fishko said, “and wonderful institutional connections.”
While Houston’s art scene may not be as well known as New York’s, the nation’s fourth largest city makes up for that in way of institutions and foundations like the Menil Collection and the Brown Foundation. It is a wealthy city.
As for Texas Contemporary, it looks to be on the right track. It’s bringing new artists to the South with a whole slew of Lower East Side galleries like Allegra LaViola, Blackston, and DCKT Contemporary participating this year. In fact, there’s more galleries from New York City showing in the fair (22) than those found inside Texas’ borders (18 total, with 12 from Houston; 2 from Austin; 3 from Dallas; and 1 from Ft. Worth.)
Fishko tells us that the galleries flocked to the fair because it gives them “access to a new group of people they’d never be exposed to otherwise.” It’s a standard line, but in Houston’s case, it may make sense. There are a lot collectors out there. In addition, he has come up with a way to get galleries mingling with area museums and non-profits: leading up to the fair, artMRKT runs an online auction with proceeds benefiting local non-profit institutions. “It makes it easy for other non-profits to plug into a fair” Fishko told us, noting that it appeals because it doesn’t seem like a “vague development opportunity.”
This post was edited to correct the misperception that Houston has a small art scene. Also, the Houston is the fourth largest city in America, not the third.