Behind the Canvas

Rick Friedman
President, Hamptons Expo Group, and Fair Producer%26nbsp;

You%26rsquo;ve been traveling to Houston for two years now, attending galas and hosting cocktails leading up to HFAF ARTWEEK. Most memorable art moment to date? Favorite person, place or thing in the Houston art world? My most memorable art moment in Houston to date is standing on the 2011 HFAF show floor, holding my breath [on] opening night while watching the entrance doors swing open and tons of Fair-goers enthusiastically rushing in ... My favorite aspect about Houston is that it represents an intensely knowledgeable, progressive and art-savvy interconnected network of art lovers ... They are not afraid to pull the trigger and take chances. Even though we produce fairs across the nation, I have not seen such a tight-knit infrastructure of driven art patrons anywhere in America. For this reason, I see Houston as the premier art market in the country right now.%26nbsp;

Your first art fair purchase? Who was the artist? At which fair and when? My first art fair purchases were a Fairfield Porter drawing of his beloved wife, Anne Porter, as well as a wonderful painting by Arshile Gorky. It was about six years ago. Let me not say from whom. And now, 165 art purchases later, well, I basically eat my own cooking.

Tips for a first-time Fair-goer? Walk around the entire fair, scope out all the possibilities, talk with the dealers, ask a lot of questions. Then ask yourself, %26ldquo;What can I not live without?%26rdquo; Think deeply about it, and take your time ... Oh, yes, [and] buy the most expensive, most important, most prominent piece by the artist you can safely afford, without getting a dose of buyer%26rsquo;s remorse. Many beginners make the mistake of compromising on a smaller, less impactful work as they gingerly put their toe in the water. It is better to buy a significant example of the artist%26rsquo;s work than a lesser one.

What are you most excited to attend/see this fall? Our complex production at Reliant Center, which represents a year in the making. Excited about the dramatic sculptures that attendees see upon entrance, our memorable community-driven public installations, such as the MFAH Core Factor and the FotoFest Latin American display. And the 2,000 works of art, which collectors will uncover and experience as they explore our breathtaking 80,000 square-foot hall. Our lecture program is invigorating, not to mention our electrifying HFAF ARTWEEK schedule of events (grab a ticket where you can), which is now the envy of many other major cities in America. We want to entertain, amaze, educate and provoke our guests. I want them to remark %26ldquo;OMG%26rdquo; at least once to themselves.

Melissa Grobmyer and Janet Hobby
Principals, MKG Art Management, and Fair Advisors

How did you set out to curate the Houston Fine Art Fair?%26nbsp;

MG: We really didn%26rsquo;t set out to curate HFAF, and as show advisors, we were not hired to do so.%26nbsp;We did, however, set out to change the look/feel of the Fair, to make it reflect Houston, and to vet the applications coming in ... The goal was to keep the quality high, but to offer Houstonians a variety of art in various styles, genres, media and price points. This year, we strove to define the Fair as a Texas-based fair, reflecting our collecting population. Houston is much different from NY, Miami or LA: We have a unique perspective that walks the line between Southern, Western and Latin viewpoints. This combination is different from any place in the world, and we hope to capture that feeling. Texans also have a deeply ingrained humor and joie de vivre, which we play on in many of our events surrounding the Fair.

JH: To focus on quality and global diversity of dealers. This year%26rsquo;s Fair has involved cultural partners and program speakers from all over the US, and awareness events have been hosted in various regional cities. All of this should mean the Fair gets a larger, more targeted visitor count.

Your first art fair purchase?

MG: A small drawing on gessoed wood of an unmade bed. At Aqua in Miami several years ago. The artist is Meg Alexander. The gallery was Alston Skirt Gallery in Boston.

JH: A four-foot vertical Christopher Knowles %26ldquo;typing%26rdquo; from the 2004 Armory Show. Christopher has an exceptional ability in mathematical organization in these works %26mdash; which is characteristic of autism %26mdash; a diagnosis he%26rsquo;s had since childhood. He perceives his condition as a talent. I like that lesson for
all of us.

Tips for a first-time Fair-goer?

MG: Do not be intimidated by either the art or the people. Walk through and look. Ask questions. Get cards and take notes and pictures of each piece you see that strikes
you. Go home. Sleep on it. The next day, one or two pieces will hit you the hardest. Purchase the piece you can%26rsquo;t forget.

JH: On your first walk through, look. Then go back to the pieces you can%26rsquo;t get out of your head. Once you realize the galleries you gravitate to most, take the time to get to know the directors and learn about their programs.

What are you most excited about this year to share with the Fair-goers?

MG: We are very proud of the international scope of our gallery roster %26hellip; Houston is an international city and deserves an international fair. We are also very proud of our programming. We have developed HFAF ARTWEEK, where daily events lead up to the Fair. At the Fair itself, we have brought together an amazing group of scholars, curators, artists and art professionals for our lectures, panels and tours. And our parties are going to be a blast.



Rick Freeman. Photo by Jenny Antill.

Janet Hobby, Melissa Grobmyer. Photo by Jenny Antill.

Adela Andea%26rsquo;s Bioluminescent Wall (detail), 2012, at Anya Tish Gallery. Photo courtesy the artist and Anya Tish Gallery, Houston.

Comments are closed.

Sign up for the DADA Newsletter