Houston Fine Art Fair Day 1: OMG, They Have Warhols Here?

We'll admit, up until now, we were only kinda excited for the Houston Fine Art Fair. Sure, it's an important inaugural event in our city; yes, there are exhibitors from around the world who've set up shop; yes, Edward Albee, one of our city's artistic doyens, was the subject of the kickoff Q&A. We knew it was a big deal.

It wasn't until today, when we saw several Andy Warhols and a Gruppe Spur painting for sale, that it hit us that this event is friggin' huge. And while we're not going to be flinging $50,000 for an Andy Warhol pencil drawing of a roll of Life Savers, the context of the fair at least allowed us to look closer at one of his works than a museum would ever allow. And we were allowed to take pictures, too.

The Albee Q&A, moderated by the Chron's Douglas Britt, addressed the playwright's own views on modern art. Albee is himself an accumulator (he doesn't use the word "collector") and has a foundation in New York to support visual artists as well as writers and composers.

"I am firmly convinced that all of the arts feed on each other," Albee said from behind a neatly trimmed white mustache. "And what troubles me about so many people in all the arts today is, painters only hang around with other painters, composers only talk to other composers, poets don't talk to anybody."

Albee added that he uses aspects of all the arts in his work, since plays are a seen-and-heard experience. They function as both literature and as visual art.

Albee also posed a question to the audience of exhibitors, artists and enthusiasts: "Why is it women artists are not given a fair shake?" pointing out that women artists don't sell as well as male artists and when they do sell, it's usually not for as much.

We headed to Darke Gallery's exhibition booth to see what artist Wendy Wagner thought about Albee's statement.

"I agree with him," she said. "And I think, to hear someone like him say it and validate the fact that it is a real issue is important."

Wagner's work is on display at the booth, including her dreamlike paintings, Seussical pillows and flatscreens showing her animation.

The local contingent is pretty large and includes displays from Sonja Roesch, Colton & Farb and Moody Gallery. We were drawn to the candles made out of aluminum cans the Glassell School Core Fellows were selling (at $20 each, possibly the sweetest deal at the fair).

Fellow Gabriel Martinez, who made the candles, said the fair gave him a chance to explore all the local galleries in one spot, allowing art pushers to mobilize for local art among national and international dealers. "It's bringing everyone together," he said.

Random bits:

  • Bring your own food or a fat wallet. Sandwiches and salads run in the $10 range. Of course, buyers are probably laying down thousands this weekend, so what's another $10?
  • We spotted Albee a number of times after the Q&A walking around, looking at art. He was wearing shorts and tennis shoes. Like everyone's grandpa.
  • One German gallery owner actually told us she thought the art she displayed was "too intellectual for Houston." We immediately wanted to bust into this:

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