Houston, it's not about a problem!

Aug 30, 2015, 7:59 PM EDT
"Two Million Homes For Mexico," a photography by Livia Corona Benjamin presented by Mexico City's Parque Gallery at the forthcoming Texas Contemporary.
(Texas Contemporary/ Parque/ Livia Corona Benjamin)

It’s stupefying to calculate the number of fresh ideas that Max Fishko has been able to generate and successfully launch in the highly competitive and fickle world of art market. As Managing Partner and Director of Art Market Productions (a partnership between Fishko, Jeffrey Wainhouse and dealers), he launched Art on Paper New York in March this year, Seattle Art Fair in July-August and will give yet another new show to the Americas, the Art on Paper Miami in December. But that’s just about half the bouquet of fairs that the Art Market Productions conducts each year - the other successful and well-known annual fairs are Art Market San Francisco, Market Art+Design, Texas Contemporary and Miami Project. Ahead of the company’s next fair, the fifth edition of Texas Contemporary, Fishko gives insight to BLOUIN ARTINFO on the art market in general and his company’s productions in particular. 

Besides its core focus area, what else makes Texas Contemporary different from all the other fairs in the bouquet of Art Market Productions? 

​Texas Contemporary is very much about its city. Houston is a remarkable place teeming with important collections (and collectors) and some of the best museums in the world. It’s also a very loyal community devoted to the support of its local galleries and institutions. We feel very lucky to a part of Houston’s extremely active art scene, and for this edition, our fifth in Texas, we’ll be focusing on the powerful patronage that makes Houston such an important place.

It’s a recurring question and I’m sure you must be bored of it, yet, I have to ask -- in the crowded world of art fairs, how do you ensure that each of your fairs stands out and remains relevant for its target audience?

We focus on the community at hand, working with local institutions and galleries to reach out to each city’s network of artistic support and creativity. We also work incredibly hard to adapt to the constant changes within each of our cities - aiming for a freshness and innovation that keeps our visitors coming back year over year. This year’s Texas Contemporary will include a new feature section​ called The Other Mexico - a program highlighting  Mexico City’s ground-breaking arts scene, one that reflects the city’s constantly churning internal dialogue. Houston and Mexico City have long been connected - the roots of Texas patronage span across the state’s southern border into the heart of the booming city. ​We’re working in partnership with The Mexican Consulate in Houston’s Department of Cultural Affairs, curator Leslie Moody Castro​, ​and Bill Arning, Director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), ​to feature eight ​top ​galleries and project spaces ​​including Yautepec Gallery, Anonymous, Enrique Guerrero, Galeria Parque, Galeria Marso, and Casa Maauad, ​to reflect Mexico City’s rapid materialization as an incredibly unique focal point of the global art forum. 

Could you talk about the journey of the Texas Contemporary art fair since its inception?  

This has been a great project from the start. Getting to know the dealers, collectors and partners in Texas has been a great experience. A lot of the people that I work with down there have become friends and I have grown to really enjoy Houston. The purpose of this fair has always been to simultaneously showcase what was happening in Houston and import great ideas from the outside, I feel like after five years we are getting there.  

Any hints you would like to share on the possible winner of the Texas Contemporary Award 2015 who would be announced during the festival?

We have an ​exciting group of submissions for this year’s Texas Contemporary Award​. ​ ​We’ll keep you posted!​

What according to you is the most interesting trend within the genre of contemporary art today? Any particular part of the US or the world that is currently the centre of attraction due to superlative output of contemporary art? 

​This brings me back to Mexico City. I’ve really enjoyed watching the Material Art Fair and ZONA MACO take off. I think there’s a huge interest in the creativity of the city, and we’re looking to tap into that this year in Houston.

How significant has been the role of Texas Contemporary in whipping up the art scene of Houston in particular and Texas in general? 

​We like to think of Texas Contemporary as the best of both worlds. A fair where collectors can visit their important galleries and catch up with the dealers and artists who really shape the local discourse while checking out what’s new from around the world. We bring in galleries from New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Mexico City, and it’s always a pleasure watching the national and international art dialogue interact with the incredibly sophisticated local scene. We also aim to immerse the fair into Houston’s cultural sphere year-round with exciting events leading up to its opening. The year 2015 will be the start of Texas Contemporary Arts Week, with programming including talks, tours, and performances extending well beyond the walls of the G.R.B. ​

How do you see the market for contemporary art shaping up in the course of the next six months or a year?

​The enthusiasm we’ve seen from the collecting community over the past year has been extraordinarily robust, reflected in record attendance at our events across the country. We hope that this outpouring of support for galleries and their artists continues on for years to come.

You recently launched the Seattle Art Fair. How was the response to the first edition of the fair, launched in the rather uncluttered Pacific Northwest compared to the crowded art hubs such as New York, California or Miami?

​We’re happy to report that the inaugural Seattle Art Fair was extremely well received by the press, our exhibitors, and, most importantly, by the people of Seattle. The city was more than ready for a world-class event, and the community came out in droves to show their enthusiastic support. Seattle is and should be extremely proud of what it has achieved as a city, and you could feel that pride reverberating through the 15,000 people who visited CenturyLink Field Event Center over the course of the fair. Seattle has incredible museums and some of the world’s top privately held collections, so it’s not surprising that it has become a power player in the global arts community.

Are there other fairs within the US that you are keen on producing, and targeting any specific cities or focussing on any particular genre of art?

​Seattle Art Fair was really a moment of success for the concept of a city-centric fair. We focused on venturing outside of the event center to activate locations around Seattle with installations by artists from across the country, and the program generated a lot of enthusiasm. Our Art on Paper fair was launched this past March on Pier 36 in NYC to great reviews. We were thrilled by the level of dialogue that took place throughout that event - lots of intimate, medium focused conversations between exhibitors and collectors. We’re looking forward to moving that program down to Miami this year.​​​ There certainly is a market for it.

The last time I interviewed you for Art on Paper, you had mentioned that Fiera Bologna was one art place that you hadn’t visited in years and would love to go there. Have you added any other art city in the world to the wish list? 

I need to go see more of the Eastern marketplace.  I hear exciting things are happening in Turkey and I would love to visit the fair that ​got started there.  I used to live in Budapest and at the time, there was a slightly lackluster scene there that now seems to be getting some momentum behind it.  As the business grows and globalizes, I think we all need to turn our attention to new marketplaces where new ideas are popping up.

Texas Contemporary will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Hall A3, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas, Houston, Texas 77010, from October 1 through 4

-- Archana Khare-Ghose