The serious scene with a down-home spirit
A recent invitation to the Dallas Art Fair piqued our interest initially by the range of 78 participating galleries and artists like Erwin Wurm bringing his "Beauty Business" from the Bass Museum in Miami, and Zoe Crosher creating a site-specific installation of her Michelle DuBois project as part of the simultaneous Dallas Biennale.
While we didn't expect to encounter a domestic event in the scope of Art Basel Miami or New York's Armory Show, Art Fair co-founder Chris Byrne clarified that wasn't the point. "The hope is that by presenting the local, national, and international galleries on an even playing field that the viewer has an important role in evaluating the art on its own terms," he says. After experiencing the fair among a swirl of strong sales, serious parties filled with decked-out Texas-style socialites, football stadium art tours and a glimpse at some serious private collections, we've discovered a Dallas that is, indeed, all its own when it comes to an art scene.
Dallas Art Fair
With galleries representing cities from Berlin to Milwaukee, New York, LA, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Marfa and Waxahachie, TX, the digestible smaller Dallas Art Fair, held in the Fashion Industry Gallery (or simply the f.i.g. "if you want anyone to know what you're talking about", a cab driver told us), presented a truly eclectic blend of big-ticket classics and new work by unknown artists. We were pleased to see a thread installation by Gabriel Dawe, as well as the 2009 graphite drawings of another thread artist gaining traction, Anne Lindberg, at Chicago's Carrie Secrist gallery. Local Fort Worth Artist Helen Altman had her torch-drawn animal prints on display at Talley Dunn gallery out of Dallas, while New York galleries like Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld Gallery featured Richard DuPont's polyurethane heads and newer work by Ouattara Watts, and Josee Bienvenue featured cut-paper grids by Marco Maggi.
In the three years since its inception the fair has grown with quality, not quantity in mind, boasting this year's solid headliners in and around the fair like Wurm and Crosher, as well as Jacob Kassay, Adam McEwen and Dallas-based Erick Swenson. "There's no grand plan with a push pin map of the art world. The fair starts to generate an organic life of its own with a visual coherence and cohesion as a byproduct of that independent life," says Byrne.
The long-term relationship of '80s pop legend George Michael with his former partner Kenny Goss, who happens to be a Dallas-based arts patron and former cheerleading coach, gave the city another of its idiosyncratic art contributions. The non-profit Goss-Michael Foundation was founded in 2007 to support British contemporary art and expose a larger community beyond collectors to the works of the so-called YBA movement. Adam McEwen opened his show during DAF, on the heels of an impressive roster that in the Foundation's tenure has included the likes of Marc Quinn, Nigel Cooke, Tracey Ermin, Damien Hirst and others.
Dallas Cowboys Stadium
When team owner Jerry Jones opened the roughly 3 million-square-foot Dallas Cowboys Stadium in 2009, it didn't come as a surprise that the team's new stomping grounds would become the largest domed stadium on the planet, house the largest HD JumboTron and hold a maximum capacity crowd of 110,000—this is Texas, after all. More surprising was the breadth and depth of its contemporary art collection, and the freedom with which the artists were able to create. The artists were selected by a committee led by Jones and his wife, Gene, the interior decorator for the VIP areas of the stadium, but were given minimal limitations beyond the inspiration of the team's legacy to create their work. The resulting 19-piece collection spans the entire arena, from massive 2D pieces by Ricci Albenda, Terry Hagerty and Dave Muller over main concourse concession stands; to Olafur Eliasson's "Moving Stars takes Time" mobile over a VIP entrance and the aptly titled "Fat Superstar" in the Owner's Club. Lawrence Weiner's "Brought up to Speed" graces a 38-foot staircase wall, while perhaps most on-brand for the Cowboys, coincidentally, are two acquisitions from Doug Aitken that play to the team's star logo.
Running simultaneously with the Dallas Art Fair was the Dallas Biennale—a tongue-in-cheek, one-time presentation of works by Crosher, Sylvie Fleury, Claude Levecque, Gabriel Martinez and more at various venues across the city. While we were curious to see Fleury's windows at the flagship Neiman Marcus store downtown, the Dallas Contemporary, where Crosher and Levecque presented alongside Wurm, offered an interestingly offbeat, and physically off-the-beaten-track experience in our art wanderings. Located across some sort of freeway network in what's known as the Design District, nestled on a remote dead-end among gems like the seemingly abandoned Cowboy Bail Bonds and various strip joints, the Contemporary looks like a commercial space that might have a loading dock around the side like its neighbors. Such a spot makes for the perfect intersection of fresh ways of thinking away from the rest of the city's stereotypically oversized or Southwestern-style neighborhoods, uncovering yet another intriguing aspect of Dallas.