It seems like this blog has been taken over by death, with a series of posts about such recently dead luminaries as Wayne Thiebaud, Dan Phillips and Eve Babitz. I want to touch on one more recently dead art world figure, Fred Baldwin. Baldwin died on December 15. Baldwin was a photographer who founded Houston’s own FotoFest in 1986. With a few exceptions, they have put on a city-wide festival of photography every two years since. Baldwin was born in 1929 in Switzerland, the son of diplomats. He served in the Korean War and subsequently became a photojournalist. After meeting Wendy Watriss, the two decided that Houston needed its own photography biennial a little like the ones in Arles International Foto Festival and maison européenne de la photographie (MEP) in Paris. They founded FotoFest in 1986.
I spoke to Baldwin and Watriss in 2010 about how they started FotoFest. This is still a subject that fascinates me—the mechanics of starting and sustaining an artistic institution. I wrote about our conversations in three posts in the earlier version of this blog.
In part 1, we discussed how it started—how they got buy-in from the rich and powerful in Houston.
In part 2, we discussed fundraising and particularly we discussed cash-flow. What happens when one of your biggest supporters stops supporting you—it happened in 1992 after which time they stopped getting financing from Kodak.
In part 3, we discussed why FotoFest didn’t have a permanent venue. I asked them why they didn’t build a museum. “It's a wonderful idea but it's just not our way of doing things," Fred Baldwin explained. "This ship does not stop."
Glasstire published an excellent obituary of Baldwin which they posted today, December 28. Baldwin recently published an autobiography called Dear Mr. Picasso: An Illustrated Love Affair with Freedom.
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