Dallas Art Fair 2015 Is Very Social, But Plenty of Art Still Gets Sold
Big hair, big heels, and some big prices give the Dallas art scene its own identity.
Collectors, art dealers, and art advisers were out in colorful, jewel-bedecked packs last night for the preview gala of the Dallas Art Fair, now in its seventh year. With nearly 100 galleries from across the country and around the world (see our preview too), the fair, co-founded by Chris Byrne and John Sughrue, is the keystone of an array of events and shows at the city’s major cultural institutions. And as we walked the aisles of the fair, on two floors of the Fashion Industry Gallery in Dallas’s Downtown Arts District, the auras of the city’s biggest collectors never seemed far from the spirited artworks on display.
While collectors in Dallas are reputed to be “edgy” and “adventurous,” and galleries brought work that “reflected their program,” many also curated their booths with an eye toward what had been either a proven success a previous time or had some connection to the growing Dallas art scene.
“They appreciate it if you bring it to their home town,” said Paul Stolper, director of Paul Stolper gallery, who had met Dallas collectors at other fairs. Stolper had works by Damien Hirst on view, a display of prints and sculptural editions of pharmaceutical pills. Also on hand were playful colorful paintings of horses by Georgia Hayes and photographs of white sculptures of scantily-clad women by Don Brown (which, Stolper noted, were already in the Goss-Michael collection).
The large color-saturated canvases of Guyana-born painter Frank Bowling filled the expansive booth of London’s Hales Gallery. “Frank currently has a show at the DMA,” said Hales’s Sasha Gomeniuk, who said the display was connected to the work that Bowling showed in a solo exhibition in 1971 at the Whitney Museum. ”People really recognize his work.” If you do head to the Dallas Museum of Art, you will see an exhibition of Bowling’s map paintings, timed with the museum’s recent acquisition of its first painting by the artist.
For New York dealer Michele Maccarone, who was at the fair for the first time, her decision to exhibit was based on a confluence of circumstances. “I was already coming to Dallas for Nate Lowman’s show,” she said about Lowman’s exhibition “America Sneezes” (which had opened the night before at Dallas Contemporary, one of the major newer players on Dallas’s museum and gallery circuit), and she decided to make the most of it. “I did a lot of fairs; I did all of them,” she said about her approach early on. Then things changed. “For seven years, I did none.” Asked why, she said, “I hate fairs.” Then, she explained that with the move to her Greenwich Street location and her sights on expansion to Los Angeles, she was required her to keep a tighter budget.
At Johannes Vogt Gallery was showing paintings by Mernet Larsen, one of which Vogt said is a promised gift to the DMA (Vogt also noted that Esther Kim Varet of Various Small Fires, which represents the artist in LA, was key in the placement of the work in the museum’s collection.) Some very pretty oil-stick on satin paintings by Larissa Lockshin, hanging in the booth, were sold out. “There’s incessant demand in Dallas,” Vogt said of Lockshin’s work.
There was conceptual work, and some Zombie Formalism, but the work that seemed to be getting a lot of attention was the fun, splashy work. “The hamburger paintings are doing well,” said Pascal Spengemann of Marlborough Chelsea, referring to the reason he brought Mike Bouchet’s painting of a hamburger to the fair. It was proudly displayed right at the front of the booth. As for sales, it was still too early to discuss. “It’s not like other fairs,” said Spengemann, “ It doesn’t all happen in the first hour.”
At OHWOW gallery, a visitor in a blue jacket was looking with mouth agape at a large orange sculpture of Poseidon that was covered in clear brownish resin by Nick van Woert. His works were drawing enthused and awed crowds while we were in the booth, which had a solo presentation of his work, including small classical sculptures encrusted with silvery material. “As you can see, people are really attracted to the material,” said Marichris Ty. “Last year, we featured his work in a group show with other artists,” Ty said about their outing at the fair the last time around where his works sold well. “This year, we decided to bring him back.” The range for works in the booth was $7,000 to $40,000, which she said was both a range that worked well for this fair, but also representative of the range for works at the gallery.
At Hus Gallery, there were two marble and wax busts of a woman’s head, self-portraits by the artist Virgile Ittah “one of Charles Saatchi’s darlings,” as per the gallery’s director CJ Jones. It’s the gallery’s second year at the fair. This time around they brought Neil Raitt. This past year, Jones met Kenny Goss (of Dallas’s Goss-Michael Foundation) in London, which led to a work by Neil Raitt being included in the MTV Redefine auction (this year’s auction is happening tonight). “The morning after the auction,” said Jones, “there was a waiting list of 30 people.” Later that fall, Raitt had a solo show at the foundation. “Neil Raitt is amazing,” said one collector who came in to the booth with her husband. “We bought a smaller one,” she said. “$14,000. Such a bargain!”
Catherine Rose, one of Dallas’s most well-known collectors, who would be opening her collection to the press the next morning, said she had particularly enjoyed seeing the colorful abstract work of Peter Barrickman at Milwaukee’s The Green Gallery.
We’ve heard that the fair, with its own unique dallying pace and festive vibe, has come a long way since its earliest days.
“There’s a lot of wealth here,” said Andrew Edlin, “but it’s not an easy market.” Among the works Edlin had brought were paintings and sculptures of shotgun shacks by Beverly Buchanan, who he had come to know from a show at New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem. Asked about how the fair had grown over the years (Edlin would know as he has been doing the fair for all seven years), Edlin said, “Each year, [Chris Byrne] gets a handful more of upper echelon dealers.” He added, “There’s no one quite like Chris in the art world.”
True to Edlin’s word, there were a handful of great new galleries showing their wares for the first time. In addition to Maccarone, and Emmanuel Perrotin, Magnus Edensvard of London’s Ibid Projects said he was doing the fair for the first time because the gallery had just expanded to LA after a decade in London and he wanted to add one or two more fairs to his US roster (which already includes New York, Miami, and LA). He had been in contact with Chris Byrne for several years and believed the scene was growing and he already had a few collectors and advisers from Dallas. At Ibid there were bronze sculptures by David Adamo that were made to look variously like half-eaten corn on the cob, a half-peeled orange, and erasers as well as a large wooden sculpture. Edensvard was being excitedly solicited about the corn cob sculptures when we entered the booth. “It grows organically,” he said about the Dallas art scene. “It’s not a boasting exercise.” The works in the booth ranged from $350 for a bronze MnM to $38,000.
“Dallas is the only fair we do where people come back every day of the fair,” said dealer Jessica Silverman, who had brought work by the “godfather of photo-conceptualism” Ian Wallace as well as Hugh Scott Douglas–the first time she brought Douglas’s work to the fair, she sold to the DMA. But, she said, it’s not just about “the Dallas moment.” “Collectors buy from us all year round.”
“Business is good, otherwise we wouldn’t come back,” said director Roberto Moiraghi of Massimo De Carlo. The gallery was showing works by, among other artists, Gunther Forg, who has an upcoming show at Dallas Contemporary. When asked about how things were going sales-wise, Moiraghi smiled. “It’s not a fair you can judge by the parameters of other fairs,” he said. “It’s got its own rhythm.”
Ameringer McEnery Yohe was showing graphite on paper works by LA-based artist Patrick Lee (who was recently in a group show at Salon 94 Freemans) and oil paintings by John Sonsini. Harlan Levey brought an affecting series of works by TR Ericsson based on the photographs and letters of his mother who committed suicide at age 57. Ericsson’s monograph by Yale University Press is out in June.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that a painting by Mernet Larsen had been placed in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. The art dealers involved say it is a promised gift.
Update: On April 13, a press representative from the Dallas Museum of Art responded over email to a request for confirmation about the gift of the painting by Mernet Larsen as follows: Our contemporary art curators were pleased to be introduced to the work of Mernet Larsen at this year’s Dallas Art Fair, and while undoubtedly an interesting artist we are not currently pursuing a work by her for the collection.
Attend the Dallas Art Fair at Fashion Industry Gallery, 1807 Ross Avenue, from April 10–12.
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