Dealer Esther Kim Varet Has a Talent for Opening Galleries in Rising Art Hubs Before Others Do. Her Next Bet? Texas

The Dallas outpost of her gallery Various Small Fires will open in April.

Esther Kim Varet. Courtesy of Various Small Fires Los Angeles, Seoul, and Dallas Photo by Coley Brown

In her decade as a gallery owner, Esther Kim Varet has demonstrated an oddly prescient knack for opening gallerIes in places where art scenes are just about to blossom. 

She beat the crowd to Venice, California, when she opened her first gallery there, Various Small Fires, in 2012, and then again when she moved to a new location in Hollywood in 2015. She opened a second space in Seoul in 2019—three years before Frieze set up shop in the city (the inaugural Frieze Seoul fair will debut this fall). 

Now, Varet is betting on Dallas, citing an influx of wealthy collectors to the area and favorable tax breaks. It also happens to be her hometown.

VSF Texas will open in mid-April in the centrally located Joule Hotel, not far from the Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center. (The Joule’s owner is real-estate billionaire and art collector Tim Headington.)

The facade of Various Small Fires new gallery space in Dallas. Image courtesy Various Small Fires.

The facade of Various Small Fires new gallery space in Dallas. Image courtesy Various Small Fires.

Varet, who is the daughter of Korean immigrants, has in a way been “retracing the steps of my identity” through her galleries, first by opening in Seoul, and now with her Dallas homecoming. “Once you’re a Texan, you’re always a Texan,” she said.

The program will be “representative of the world that I built through the lens of Los Angeles and Seoul,” she said. Just as the Seoul gallery serves as a gateway to Asia, Texas provides “access to the South—Georgia, Louisiana, and Florida, as well as access to Central America, Latin America and Mexico.” 

The first show will be titled “Texan” and will feature work by  “diasporic Texans,” including Diedrick Brackens, Rosson Crow, Aaron Curry, Hayden Dunham, Jeff Elrod, Troy Michie, Puppies Puppies (Jade Kuriki Olivo), Daniel Rios Rodriguez, Ryan Trecartin, Sarah Zapata, and Jeff Zilm.

The new space, Varet said, “opens us up to cultivating and fostering long-term relationships not only with artists in the South but also collectors.”

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