They say that three times is a charm, and for Max Fishko, Managing Partner of the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, no phrase could be closer to the truth. Now entering its third year, TX Contemporary, which will take place the weekend of October 10, has officially hit its stride.
"We just keep getting bigger," says Fishko, who happened to be in town this past week on official TX Contemporary business.
When the TX Contemporary fair premiered in 2011, even Fishko admits he didn't fully understand how successful it could become, although he had some idea.
"We didn't go to Dallas or another Texas city because we knew there was something special about Houston," he remarks.
It's not the first time Fishko has admitted his love and admiration for Space City's arts appreciation. But even given that initial good feeling, Houston has proven to be a cash cow for the artists and galleries involved, and it comes down to the city's support of the arts community. Houston's plethora of galleries, first-rate museums and overall growth, has made it an art lover's dream and the TX Contemporary is their playground at recess.
From the first year to the second, TX Contemporary estimates an 80 percent re-sign rate from galleries and dealers, which is abnormally high. Additionally, there was a 20 percent jump in attendance rates as well as a boost in the price point of works being sold. All of these facts and figures point to an "all signs go" as far as the fair is concerned. Already, the 2013 fair is seeing the same rate of re-ups with more than five months still to go.
"We have galleries coming back from places like Japan," says Fishko, "which is just awesome and proof of concept and success."
But proven success is no reason to slow down or stop evolving; Fishko and his team want the party to get bigger and keep the growth of the fair steady. The upcoming 2013 TX Contemporary has some new items that are sure to get art-lovers' panties in a bunch.
For starters, the TX Contemporary Award, which was introduced last year, will be expanded this year. Last year participating galleries nominated one of their own artists, who was judged by a small but highly selective panel consisting of Bill Arning, Director of the CAMH, and LACMA's Chief Curator of Contemporary Art, Franklin Sirmans. Arning will be back on board to select this year's winner along with a respected member of the field who is still being nailed down. This year the prize will consist of the same cash amount but the winning dealer will be given a free booth in the following year's fair, as well as highly publicized acknowledgment.
"It's good for the artist, the dealer and the fair," Fishko comments. Too often galleries bring their "leftovers" to such fairs, those pieces that they cannot sell. The prize acknowledges new work giving artists and dealers an excuse to get some fresh work out there. It's a win win win.
Additionally, Fishko just sealed the deal on a partnership between the fair and the Blaffer Gallery. The Blaffer is inaugurating an art and design store called the BAD shop in the fall that will feature items from the University of Houston Industrial Design, Graphic Design and Fine Art Departments. The upcoming TX Contemporary will be the first foray into this collaboration, with a pop-up shop featuring reasonably priced items chosen specifically for the 2013 fair.
The fair will also be using Houston's current push for tourism to acknowledge all that the city has to offer in terms of the arts. The Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau's current tourism campaign "Houston is..." will help push the TX Contemporary in addition to being aided by the fair. It's a nice double-edged sword. Houston is no doubt a current destination for travel as based on the multitude of "best of" lists the city finds itself on, and having a world-class art fair, akin to Miami or San Francisco's can only assist.
"We want Houston to be a destination, which the city is also pushing really hard," Fishko says. "It's a great time to highlight all that Houston has to offer, food, the arts, all that, while also saying, 'Yeah and they've got this amazing contemporary art fair of top-notch galleries from all around the world.' Houston has a lot going on right now."
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If Fishko can't already say enough amazing things about Houston (come live here, man, Montrose would love to have you) than his gush about the George R. Brown Convention Center pushes his Houston love into outer-atmospheric levels.
"I have never dealt with a friendlier or more accommodating space than the GRB," Fishko says, "They're like, 'Oh you want to drive that semi-truck filled with weird art into our main room? That's cool; what can we do to help?' Other spaces freak out over stuff that the GRB has no problem with. It's awesome."
The 2013 TX Contemporary Art Fair will run October 10 through 13 with VIP events prior to the opening. Stay tuned for more.