Houston's big art fairs aren't the only games in town anymore.
When the Texas Contemporary Art Fair takes over the George R. Brown Convention Center this month, fewer than five weeks after the Houston Fine Art Fair was at Reliant Park, a counter-art fair will be setting up a stone's throw away at the Embassy Suites in downtown.
Dubbed the Pan Art Fair, it's being organized by Robert Boyd, the man behind the Houston Press award-winning arts blog The Great God Pan is Dead and, in a great bit of mischief befitting another Greek deity, it runs the same time as the Texas Contemporary, from October 18-21, and, from its perch at the Embassy Suites, is just two blocks away from the convention center.
Boyd announced the fair on his blog last week, writing, "Ever since Houston got not one but two mainstream art fairs, I have thought we needed some counterprogramming. The Pan Art Fair will be a real art fair, with artwork for sale to any collector with brave eyes. And I hope it will be seen as an alternative to the big boys in town."
As part of his counterprogramming, Boyd is more modest than the big fairs. He will be exhibiting two Houston artists -- Lane Hagood and Emily Peacock -- and two Houston galleries -- Montrose's Front Gallery, run by artist Sharon Engelstein (she intends to bring Virginia Fleck, Hilary Harnischfeger, Biff Bolen, Monica Vidal and Kim Dingle) and Cardoza Fine Arts, a Downtown gallery run by artist Pablo Cardoza, who as of now is still finalizing his selections. Boyd has also called on other artists to follow suit and rent a room at the Embassy as a cheaper alternative to one of the Texas Contemporary's booths.
We caught up with the rogue art fair organizer this week and asked him what to expect from the Pan Art Fair:
Houston Press: How did you go about selecting artists and galleries? How do they match the spirit of what you're doing?
Robert Boyd: I wanted small galleries, galleries that weren't quite the biggish professional operations that you see at the art fairs. Apartment galleries, loft galleries, etc. And Cardoza Fine Arts is literally a loft gallery. Pablo Cardoza lives in his gallery and puts on exhibits when he wants to. Front Gallery is similar but a little less grungy, since it basically is the front room of Sharon Engelstein's and Aaron Parazette's pleasant Montrose house. Both galleries have hosted exhibits I loved and they both are the kind of small scale DIY galleries that I was looking for.
As for the artists, they are both artists I have long admired. Neither one of them has a gallery (that was one of my criteria). Lane Hagood won the Hunting Prize a couple of years ago (which still seems totally unbelievable -- even though he deserved it!). I saw his work at Gallery 1724 and the Joanna (two DIY galleries that I would definitely have invited if I had two suites instead of just one) and have written about his work in the past. He was the first artist I asked.
I first saw Emily Peacock's work at the MFA show a couple of years ago and it blew me away. Her recent show at Lawndale was excellent. And when she and Britt Ragsdale did the Lens Capsule, I knew she was someone who was willing to think outside the box when it came to exhibiting work. The Lens Capsule was a very guerrilla operation. And I thought it would be good to have a photographer as well as a painter.
HP: A hotel room gives you a lot more to work with than a booth (such as art in the bathroom or on the bed). Any ideas yet on how you'd like to use the space?
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RB: Well, the first thing I did when I met with the people at the Embassy Suites -- who have been totally down with this whole nutty idea -- was arrange to have all the furniture removed. One of my friends said I should display art on the bed, but from my point of view, having a bed and two TVs and end-tables, etc., in there is a distraction. It makes the space too crowded. We'll have a space with some chairs, lots of easels, and a few pedestals. I don't know about displaying art in the bathroom. We'll probably use it in some fashion. (Beyond it's intended function, I mean.) Of course, unlike an art fair, we can't put nails in the wall to hang the art. We have to respect the room. It will inevitably have a very different feel from a clean white cube at an art fair.
HP: What has been the response so far? And is anyone planning on joining you at the Embassy Suites since you've announced your fair?
RB: One person I know is trying to get some artists together in Austin. Aside from that, no one else is renting a suite that I know of. But seriously, people should. When I think of all the excellent artists in Houston who have no gallery representation (and are therefore excluded from the Texas Contemporary Art Fair), hell -- they could fill that hotel up! What a beautiful thing that would be.