How to Make an Art Fair Work for You

Rachel Hooper

Oct 02, 2012

The Houston Fine Art Fair (Photography/Gary Fountain, September 15, 2012) Last year, Houston went from zero art fairs to two, the Houston Fine Art Fair and the Texas Contemporary, and both are back this year with the addition of a satellite project, the Pan Art Fair. The HFAF that took place last month boasted over 12,000 visitors, and this weekend both the Texas Contemporary and Pan Art Fair offer a chance to see what the buzz is about. My guess is that art fairs' popularity comes from the fact that they are a rare opportunity to see a large quantity and diversity of artwork in one location. They are visual spectacles, a chance for those who love art to socialize with one another, and occasionally a place to find an amazing work of art. The key to enjoying an art fair is not let fatigue or confusion overwhelm the experience. To that end, I offer the following five tips to maximize fun while visiting art fairs. Brian Piana, Political Bowl Season 1) Find free tickets. No need to pay an entrance fee. Free passes are often available at galleries or online, in this case through Fotofest, which has sponsored a project by Brian Piana at the fair. Texas Contemporary 2011 2) Pack some snacks. There is nothing worse that looking at art while hungry, except maybe the prices at the concessions in George R. Brown. Texas Contemporary 2011 3) Take notes. It is hard to keep track of what you see without jotting a few things down. The fair guides available at the entrance are a good place to note names of artists that interest you, the galleries where you see them, and what you like about them. I have fair programs from years past on my bookshelf that I often refer to when trying to remember the name of an artist or project I've seen. Agnes Denes, Pyramids of Conscience, 2005. Crude oil, polluted water from the Rio Grande, clear water, mirror, 51 x 51 x 56 inches. 4) Find artist installations and on-site projects. Galleries need to sell the artwork in their booths, but artist projects are included in a fair because of their artistic merit and are usually the best artwork to be seen there. The Texas Contemporary has their artist installations clustered around the central aisle. Some highlights are Agnes Denes's Pyramids of Conscience, Okay Mountain's Roadside Attractions, Mike Bernadino's Lode Runner, and Kim Beck's The Sky Is The Limit. Across Discovery Green from the GRB, the Pan Art Fair, an experimental project in its own right, is hosting installations by Lane Hagood, Emily Peacock, Jim Nolan, Solomon Kane, and Bryan Keith Gardner. Texas Contemporary 2011 5) Consider buying some artwork. Between Texas Contemporary and Pan Art Fair, there are artworks available for every budget. Art fairs boil down to supporting those who make their living making art. If you have a good experience at the fairs, the best way to show it is by buying some art. Owning an artwork that is beautiful or meaningful to you is one of the best investments you can make. If you really fall in love with an artwork at the fair that may seem out of your price range, consider asking the gallery for a payment plan. Most artists and galleries want to see an artwork in the hands of someone who appreciates it and are willing to work with you to make that happen.