Page 8


LEFT The interior of the new main gallery at Austin’s Arthouse at the Jones Center PHOTO BY MICHAEL MORAN RIGHT The exterior of the Menil Collection in Houston PHOTO COURTESY GREATER HOUSTON CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU LEARN more about contemporary Texas art at “Os c lexas going to remain this strongly independent space where artists do all kinds of quirky things?” VISIT the Sala Diaz gallery at ligli r HEN PEOPLE THINK OF TEXAS, they think of oil, not art. But the gusher at Spindletop that begat an ocean of black crude also begat massive financial support for art. Museums, institutions and collections created by petro-wealth have contributed to Texas’ becoming a contemporary art hot spot that many believe will become more important in the future. “The Texas art scene in 2030 will exist in convenient, flavorful pill form and will be readily available to all,” says Hills Snyder, a San Antonio artist, writer, and director at gallery Sala Diaz. Just like The Jetsons. Houston artist and art writer Bill Davenport predicts, “Judging by the last 20 years, it’s just going to get bigger. But how much bigger can it get? At a certain point, everyone is going to be doing art and no one is going to be doing anything productive.” The problem with predicting what’s going to happen in 20 years is that it feels like it’s just around the corner. As an art critic for the Houston Press and editor of , a Texas-centric online arts magazine, I have been writing about Texas art for more than 10 years. I have seen Houston eclipse Chicago as a contemporary art center, and if I am not mistaken, we are creeping up on Los Angeles. New York will remain the No.1 art scene in America, but in the next 20 years, L.A. and Houston will fight it out for the title of distant second. While Houston is the contemporary art center of Texas, it is by no means the sole source. Dallas, Austin and San Antonio are strong players as well. Before the great art-market crash in 2008, it seemed every city with artistic aspirations had to have its own art fair. Crash be damned, Dallas launched its fair in 2009, and in its own brave or foolhardy move, Houston is launching a fair in 2011. Part marketplaces, part see-and-be-seen social events, critics view them as embodying everything that is wrong in the art world. Whether contemporary art fairs can survive changing tastes and attitudes, as well as economic upheaval, in the next 20 years remains to be seen. If naysayers are proven wrong, and the Houston and Dallas fairs succeed, Texas cities could become regular stops on the jet-set art consumer’s itinerary, alongside cities like New York, Miami and Basel. Another predictor of a successful art scene is the cost of real estate, says Houston artist and writer Laura Lark. She cites the Aurora Picture Show, a Houston micro-cinema founded by Andrea Grover in 1998, as an example. Grover bought an old church in Houston’s residential Independence Heights neighborhood for a bargain price and turned it into a theater for artistmade, noncommercial film and video. “Andrea Grover would have never been able to do the Aurora Picture Show in New York or Chicago. Maybe LA, but she wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” says Lark. The fact that Houston is unzoned didn’t hurt, either. Today the homes on Aurora Street can reach a half million dollars. Though real-estate prices have risen significantly in the past 20 years, Houston and other Texas cities will likely remain much cheaper than New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In Houston and other Texas cities, small, artist-run spaces still pop up. Opened in 2008, Skydive, formerly housed in an office space in a decaying Montrose high-rise, has moved to a rented colonial nearby. In Austin, curator and UT doctoral candidate Katie Geha opened SOFA Gallery in the living room of her Hyde Park home in 2009. San Antonio’s Sala Diaz, founded by artist and curator Alejandro Diaz in the living room of his 1920s bungalow in 1995, became a nonprofit in 2006. Early this year in Dallas, TCU curator Christina Rees and artist Thomas Feulmer took over a newly built, never-occupied, soon-to-be-destroyed Washington Mutual Bank building. They organized “Modern Ruin,” a show that was “the only use for the million-dollar building before the demolition process.” The two-day exhibition was rife with commentary on the banking scandal. Lark believes the size of Texas will be its saving grace. “Sheer physical space is where Texas will always have it over other places. The fact that it takes like 12 hours to drive across this fucking state is 24 1 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG