Friday, October 19, 2007

Poll Results- Devin Borden Hiram Butler Wins

Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery- 37%
Texas Gallery- 25%
Moody Gallery- 10%
Inman Gallery- 7%
Finesilver Gallery- 7%
McClain Gallery- 5%
Sicardi, Barbara Davis and New Gallery- 2%

"Where did the DBHB gallery fan club come from?
Texas was leading the way in your poll until last week, then boom."
"Don't Call Me Melinda" Hovie

Robert Rauschenberg, Autobiography, 3rd panel in a triptych
DBHB Gallery

What is a blue-chip gallery anyway? the use of "blue chip" to indicate well-established, financially sound companies began at the start of the 20th century and came from poker, because blue was the color of the highest-denomination chips.

The connection to poker is ironic, because blue-chips are supposed to be antithetical to gambling. Traditional blue-chip companies were the patricians of the community--conservative, sensible and forthright. While they may have lacked the dynamic potential of their smaller, nimbler brethren, they compensated with reliable growth, regular sales and outstanding management. via CNNMoney

Places like White Cube and Blum & Poe are usually referred to as blue-chip, and while we do not have anything in the city to compare with either their buying power or their stable of artists we do have some reputable places that need a little recognition for their strengths in building collectors and collections in Houston.

The blue-chip gallery is all about the client list, all other facets of the business are in service to that partnering of ascending investments with the appearance of clout. First one sells paintings to their clients, based on friendships and offering them the chance to get in on a good deal. With the money from that, one promotes the remaining artist's works to other collectors, museums and art fairs- driving up the value of the original sale as supply dwindles and (hopefully) the artist's clout grows through association, transparently through inclusion in museum collections.

This is where collectors sitting on museum boards gets a little chummy- convinced months ago by their gallerist friend that an artist's work is not only a good investment but also beautiful, they are in a perfect position to argue for another work to be included in the museum holdings based on excellent aesthetic criteria. His artwork at home will also gain equity in the process- convenient, no?

So who is the best blue-chip gallery in Houston? Looks like it may be DBHB Gallery, with Texas Gallery making a strong showing for good reasons. A poll is always part popularity contest, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'll take the numbers as they are.

Dean Ruck, Pinestraw, 1995
installation view @ DBHB Gallery

With a website that can't keep up with whatever was on view last month and a weird attachment to not giving visitors what they are looking for, most people link to the gallery's ADAA or Saatchi page. Similarly, the gallery itself is confoundingly tough to find in the overgrown West End neighborhood. Add to the file their oblique openings- usually Saturday or Sunday from 11 am to 1 pm- and their service of choice- coffee, orange juice and donuts. Luckily for the Borden-Butler crew their access to the public has nothing to do with their mission. Instead they provide a charming and tranquil space above and beyond any other art space (besides the Artery).

Their gallery shows are ambitiously ephemeral at times; large installation, site-specific work, unsellable or fragile objects. Countering with an emphasis on prints that makes the most of their artists' work their is never a dearth of stuff to sell, and a smart range of prices make the little fish and the tuna feel equally at home.

Who do they show? Currently Laura Lark and Mark Flood split the gallery- these two have paid their dues with other galleries, promising careers and histories extending back to punk rock roots- and these Houston kids should get some good mileage out of this one. Last month was former CORE kids Hilary Wilder and Maya Schindler, reviewed by Bill Davenport HERE. They also show Houstonians William Betts (honored next week at the TALA gala), Christopher French, Joe Havel, James Turrell, Darrell Lauster, Dean Ruck and Terrell James. East Texas native and local collector favorite Robert Rauschenberg leads DBHB into a stable of strong New York artists that also includes Jasper Johns, Sherrie Levine, Kiki Smith and Terry Winters. Recently featured in the documentary Hot Town, Cool City this low-key gallery is a hometown secret, but it works like a machine within its own artworld realm.

Texas Gallery is the only other contender for the crown here; they show Robert Rauschenberg, advertise nationally, and reside in the River Oaks Shopping Center (which doesn't sound so good if you are from not-Houston, but believe me). They also add to the city's exposure to high-quality American postmodern art- exhibiting Lynda Benglis, Chuck Close, Elizabeth Murray, Tony Oursler, Ed Ruscha and H.C. Westermann. Houston artists are well represented by David McGee, Francesca Fuchs, Jeff Elrod, Rachel Hecker and Paul Horn. With a clean space, tall white gallery walls and wood floors it looks as NYC as can be, behind a movie theatre and a delicatessen.

Coming in a respectable third is Moody Gallery, who beat out spaces that regularly show national and international artists with their solid stable of Houston and Texas artists. Opening tomorrow is the work of emerging drawer Michael Bise, a collection of detailed death-obsessed images. Also of note in their pocket; Roy Fridge, Ed Hill and Suzanne Bloom (MANUAL), David McManaway, hotshot Al Souza, Randy Twaddle and Joe Wooten.

What happened to the rest?!? Inman and Finesilver, bosom buddies on the block at Alabama and Main, are the two most adventurous galleries in Houston for traveling to art fairs. McClain has the pedigree and a good selection of pop and neo-expressionism in the back, Julian Schnabel and new addition Aaron Parazette. Sicardi keep their chin up with their highbrow South American Modernism. New Gallery made a killing in Chinese art this summer. Barbara Davis has serious clout and international artists. Well I'm ready to crown the champion, and feel free to disagree.


John Hovig said...

Inman might have done better among forward-thinking or cutting-edge spaces -- adventurous is a good word -- but hey, you asked about blue-chip. Texas, McClain and Davis are the only ones in town with Those Names I Read About In The Newspapers.

Melinda Inman will probably be on the blue-chip list in a decade or so. She's got Dario Robleto and a few other good up-and-comers on her roster, but her chips are still, umm, whatever the ones that aren't blue, are.

Speaking of McClain Gallery, when do we get to talk about what happened with Melinda Parazette? I assume everybody caught that tiny little grey-colored 4-point-font disclaimer printed on the most obscure part of the announcement postcard, that said "In collaboration with Marlboro ugh Gallery"?

It seems the chips in Houston just ain't so blue after all. Looks like the real blues are the ones pulling the strings.