Dallas Art Fair Draws Socialites and Good Ol' Collectors Alike

Art fairs, global as they might try to be, always pick up a neighborhood flavor. Whether or not some of the dealers are the same, booths have a softer bent in Palm Beach, a harder edge in Chicago, a pop-culture flavor in L.A.

So, what does Dallas's fair look like?

The big Dallas Art Fair (DAF) that opened to the public today at the town's Industry Fashion Gallery has an experimental mix: major artists alongside commercial multiples, design with art, a selection as big as Texas.

A few hours into it, and two things are noticeable: First, high attendance by designers, art advisers, the region's top socialites and, most surprising, a slew of International and US artists being exhibited here. Ryan McNamara, Richard Phillips, and Julian Schnabel are just a trio of the many artists who opted not to shun this particular art fair.

Second, there's a sense of critical mass here. Wealthy Texans have been collecting major art for years, but now there is a second generation and a second wave, some attracted to the city by an increasing rich architecture scene.

As for sales, slow but some. Among those seeing sales are Aspen-based Hexton Gallery; Lisa Cooley, who brought works by Scott Reader (who's also in town); and Marlborough.

Eric Holubow, "Room with a View" (2014) © 2014 Eric Holubow

Eric Holubow, Room with a View (2014) © 2014 Eric Holubow. Photo: Courtesy Hexton Modern and Contemporary. The gallery said it sold another work by Holubow in the fair's first hour.

The fair was initially launched by gallerist Chris Byrne and real estate developer John Sughrue. Its premiere six years ago was a worst-case scenario. Planned during the boom, it opened in the spring of 2009, amidst recession. It should not have worked, but pretty much has, chiefly due to a pent-up demand from the community not only for contemporary art, but for the kind of cultural renaissance that Art Basel in Miami Beach has brought to southern Florida.

Chris Watson, associate director of the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, which exhibited at the fair its first year, reports that "the quality is better" now and more people know about the fair.  A move from winter to April has helped a great deal, he added.

Indeed, six years in, the Dallas fair, which runs through Sunday, April 13, is the capstone of two dozen events that stretch a full week. President George W. Bush opened a show of his paintings at his presidential library; the Dallas Art Museum is hosting a symposium; top collectors are opening their homes.

The town features some superstar ones: Cindy and Howard Rachofsky (who've pledged their Richard Meier house to the Dallas Museum of Art and are both on its board), Kenny Goss, who runs a British contemporary art exhibition space with singer George Michael; Deedie Potter Rose and Rusty Rose, the Dallas financier who bought the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush; Tim Headington, who has bought sculptures by Tony Cragg and Los Carpinteros, among other artists, for his Joule Hotel; Marguerite Hoffman, perhaps the world's top Joseph Cornell collector, with 26; and Margot Perot, political wife and collector of Impressionist paintings and design objects.

So what's different about the Dallas collector? What's interesting is that the bunch—a shelter mag bunch—has been on the radar of the social and design set much more than the art world. By and large, these people don't do the Grand Tour circuit of Venice, Basel, etc. They are interested in Serious—capital S—art but perhaps because of regionalism or snobbery they just haven't made the industry top ten lists or many dealers' Rolodexes. But some of the local collections—and collectors—could eat Miami for lunch.

Galleries exhibiting at DAF include Los Angeles's OHWOW, Chicago's Carrie Secrist, London's Jonathan Viner and Paradise Row; New York's Kansas gallery, Morgan Lehman, and Salomon Contemporary; and a strong spate of Texas and New Mexico dealers.

Dallas Contemporary Director Peter Doroshenko and Kenny Goss at the Dallas Art Fair Preview Gala on April 10, 2014.  Photo: Mei-Chun Jau.

Dallas Contemporary director Peter Doroshenko and collector Kenny Goss at the Dallas Art Fair preview gala on April 10, 2014.
Photo: Mei-Chun Jau.