Frank Talks

Brandon Zech – Publisher at Glasstire

Brandon Zech - Publisherr at Glasstire
Brandon Zech. Photo - Jennifer Battaglia

Brandon joined Glasstire, the online publication for art in Texas, in 2015 as an Assistant Editor. In 2018 he began overseeing the publication’s news content as Glasstire’s first dedicated News Editor, and he was appointed to succeed the site’s founding Publisher, Rainey Knudson, in 2019. In addition to speaking at venues across Texas, Brandon also contributes podcasts and articles to Glasstire. He is a graduate of the University of Houston.

 

What was the most important thing you learned at your first job in the Arts?

 

I learned that the most important thing was to show up and be curious. If you’re able to communicate that you want to be there and you’re ready to take things in, people will notice. 

 

Where are you from and what is the arts community like there? How has your upbringing shaped what you do in the arts today?

 

I’m from Houston, Texas. While I wasn’t raised in the arts, I got involved in the city’s art community once I began college. People don’t tend to think of Houston (or Texas) as an art destination, but Texas’ art scene is one of the strongest in the country. In Houston specifically, we have world-class museums (like the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), kunsthalles like the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, galleries, nonprofits, and more. 

You began your career working in nonprofit curatorial and programming roles. What prompted your transition to an editorial position at Glasstire

 

I had never thought of art criticism as a career path. Since so many daily publications across the country had (and continue to) cut their critics and drastically reduced their arts coverage, I assumed my art history schooling would lead me to art-presenting organizations. However, I jumped at the opportunity to join Glasstire (the online publication for art in Texas) as an Assistant Editor in 2015.

Early in my career, I learned that I’d rather be out in the world talking to artists about their work than sitting in a library doing research. For the position at Glasstire, I’d be doing exactly that.

 

What is one thing you want our audience to learn about the Texas art scene?

 

It is amazingly diverse, in every sense of the word. Artists who have chosen to call Texas home make some of the smartest work I’ve ever seen. There’s great art happening everywhere — from our state’s biggest cities to our most remote areas. I wouldn’t call Texas “up-and-coming,” because the talent is already here, and is constantly being shown. 

 

Where do you get your art news from (besides Glasstire of course!)?

 

I keep tabs on the wider art world by following all of the sites you might expect: Artnet News, ARTnews, Hyperallergic, and The Art Newspaper, among many others. I also like to check out other regional arts journals, like Double Scoop out of Nevada, Southwest Contemporary out of New Mexico, Ruckus out of Kentucky, and BmoreArt out of Maryland. I’m also a fan of critics who write for major publications, like Christopher Knight at the Los Angeles Times, and Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith at the New York Times. Finally, Weisslink is the best-kept secret/non-secret in the arts. I see it as our trade news aggregator. 

 

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

 

It is important to find you clique, because those people will ultimately be your biggest support system. Also, taking time for yourself is necessary — we’re in an industry where you can work 24/7 and burnout is a reality. 

 

What are you most excited for this year at your company or in the art world as a whole?

 

I’m excited to travel again. At Glasstire, we’re constantly traveling across the state to see shows, find new stories, and meet artists. All of that was severely limited over the past few years because of the pandemic. It’s invigorating to drive across our state, popping from city to city to see what everyone is up to.  

 

How do you think the art world can become more transparent?

 

There are many things in the art world that no one wants to and traditionally has not talked about — from ongoing inequity in our institutions to the overcrowded pipeline of MFA students coming out of universities burdened with debt. Many of the conversations about these issues have only happened in the shadows. I believe through open dialogue and good journalism we can at least start to acknowledge the problems around us. 

 

What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?

 

Meret Oppenheim: My Exhibition, which is currently up at the Menil Collection in Houston and will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art later this year, is perhaps the most powerful show I’ve seen in the last few months. There’s was also recently an amazing show of works by Texas-born artist Donald Moffett on view at Lora Reynolds Gallery in Austin. 

 

If you could own work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection? 

 

I like playing this game, mostly because I feel like the answers change based on daily whims. Today I’d say Nina Katchadourian (particularly her wonderful Under Pressure video piece); Caravaggio, simply because of his mastery and innovation; Alice Neel, because her portraits feel like friends; Kara Walker, because she’s been one of the most important artists changing the game today; and Steve Wolfe, because his work is just sublime. 

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