As an artist who also writes about art, I’m in a position to understand the staggering amount of time and unrecognized energy that goes into producing a piece of art. This can be excruciating when a work that is obviously labored-over just isn’t interesting or relevant. It’s equally frustrating to see the art-equivalent of Kim Kardashian, a gorgeously fabricated but vapid piece that seems to embody all of the most cynical aspects of art making. These second types are far more likely to travel to art fairs, of which Houston has just experienced two in three weeks. The second and smaller of the two, The Houston Fine Arts Fair closed up shop this very evening. We visited after closing hours, to help Tommy Gregory remove vinyl from the HAA booth, and it was my favorite fair experience to date.
Tattooed art-handlers on boom lifts glided through the booths, ducking under track lighting. Gallerinas in form hugging dresses disassembled installations while funky-glasses-wearing owners oversaw. Replicas of midcentury furniture and lucite chairs provided respite for the stiletto-weary. All around the increasingly frantic tearing of industrial-sized plastic wrap provided a soundtrack.
In the midst of this, art could be seen. It wasn’t properly lit anymore. Some of it was half-wrapped. Other pieces sat dejectedly in a dim corner, awaiting proper crates. It wasn’t propped up by all the fair-accoutrements, these whirlwind white cubes that pop up for purposes of selling guns or Christmas ornaments or any other niche-but-expensive item one might seek to purchase at a convention center. In this moment of transition each piece struck me as a fresh delight. When all of the shop-presentation was removed, I could again see them as their makers must have. So perhaps instead of going grumblingly to each flashy art affair, I’d do better to remember the audacity (and tenacity) it takes to make a piece of art in the first place.