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Dallas Goes to the Super Bowl of Art Fairs
by Brad Ford Smith 2 Dec 2008

Guest blogger Brad Ford Smith is a Dallas artist and arts conservationist Art Basel Miami is considered the American art event of the year. This weeklong art fair (Dec. 2–7) draws galleries, museum curators, collectors, art critics and artists from all over the world. Add to that the Art Basel umbrella of 14 simultaneous satellite […]


Guest blogger Brad Ford Smith is a Dallas artist and arts conservationist

Art Basel Miami is considered the American art event of the year. This weeklong art fair (Dec. 27) draws galleries, museum curators, collectors, art critics and artists from all over the world. Add to that the Art Basel umbrella of 14 simultaneous satellite art fairs and you can see why this is an unparalleled cultural happening.

Art Basel Miami will be hosting 250 international galleries that will be exhibiting mostly established blue chip artists such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. Of the 14 satellite fairs, Scope and Pulse will host 190 international galleries that represent established, mid-career and up-and-coming artists. Then there are the fairs like NADA and Aqua Wynwood that will host some of the more cutting-edge galleries. This all adds up to a total immersion in the world of art. It is so expansive that it is physically impossible to see every gallery participating in this six-day event.

Let me restate that: There is so much art gathered within a one-mile radius, that even within six days you could not see all of it. That is total emersion. That is six days of living, breathing, eating and drinking art. Check out some of the Art Basel Miami postings on YouTube and you will get a glimpse of the magnitude of this event.

But now, let me tell you what I am most excited about, and proud of: Nestled within this world of high-caliber art dealers and collectors are 14 Texas galleries, eight of which are from Dallas:

Conduit Gallery, Dallas @ Aqua Wynwood

Decorazon Gallery, Dallas @ Bridge Art Fair Miami Beach

Dunn & Brown Contemporary, Dallas @ Art Miami

Light & Sie, Dallas @ Scope

Pan American Art Projects, Dallas @ Scope

PDNB, Dallas @ Art Miami

Gerald Peters Gallery, Dallas @ Art Miami

Public Trust, Dallas @ Aqua Hotel

Art Palace, Austin @ Aqua Hotel

Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin @ Pulse

CTRL Gallery, Houston @ Aqua Hotel

Apama Mackey Gallery, Houston @ Bridge Art Fair Wynwood

New Gallery/Thom Andriola, Houston @ Aqua Hotel

And last but not least, Texas’ very own contemporary art review magazine,

Art Lies, Houston @ NADA

I spoke with some of the Dallas gallery representatives to see what was up. All of the local galleries agreed that Dallas has over the years become much more sophisticated, and that North Texas has become a point of destination for art and culture travelers. They also agreed that this trend is going to expand rapidly with the completion of the various construction projects in the Dallas Arts District.

Because of this growing trend, most of the galleries now have collectors/clients that live in other cities, and even though the time and the financial cost of participating in art fairs like Art Basel is high, it is still the most efficient way to stay in touch with those clients, and to make contacts with new collectors and curators.

The Dallas galleries, as a group, cover a wide range of experiences and philosophies, but they are all making a strong effort to establish themselves and their stable of artists on the national art map. Some galleries, like Dunn and Brown Contemporary and Pan American Art Projects have been doing multiple art fairs for years, while other galleries have just recently added art fairs to their promotional roster. All agree that the excitement, the validation and the prospects gained from being part of Art Basel make up for the expense.

So, if you are planning on attending Art Basel, here are some tips from the experts:

Use the free shuttle busses! The traffic is really bad, and parking is expensive, inconvenient and time consuming. It has been known to take more than an hour to get your car back from valet parking.

The most common problem seen at the Art Basel is burn out, people who have gone so far beyond their visual limit that they are just wondering aimlessly among the crowd. To avoid burn out, scan the booths for what you like and focus on those items. If you try to look at everything, you will become a glazed zombie with no recall of what you have just seen. The #1 recommended antidote for zombieism is a brief walk on the beach.

Drink lots of water, and keep a mental note of where the restrooms are. Lastly, use your digital camera as a note pad. Avoid using it as a window to see the show through.

There is a lot of concern about the impact that our economically challenged times are having on travel and the arts, but if you are looking for the most bang for your cultural dollar, you would be hard pressed to spend it any better way than to go to Art Basel. I’ve got my bags packed. I’ll post some things while I am out walking on the beach. And if you are there, and you see another Texan, say hello.

  • Nice run down Brad, the tip about parking is a good one. Saw most of the Dallas galleries yesterday at previews and Dallas should be proud.

  • This may be the beginning of the end for galleries. They have become too elitist and their audience must be shrinking – not for good art, but for puffed up derivative, bad dada-style art without the dada charm, that now passes for new art.
    Or conceptual art (art without the art) that has faced two groundbreaking challenges recently from the Art Revolution here in Dallas.
    There is nothing new out of these galleries – no new movement, no fresh art groups, no rebellion against the status quo.
    We need, not an elitist gathering of galleries, but art integrated back into the normal world. During the Renaissance, great artists were the celebrated rock stars of their era. Today we have goofs parading aloof, cold, uncommunicative clone art that says nothing to anyone on its own. And too often demands the artists explanations to make sense of the mess.
    Time for a revolution in art that includes the end of the ivory tower gallery system.

  • Tom, Why don’t you open a gallery-sounds like we need you!

  • I see a new energy growing in the Dallas art scene that is tapping into the established and the grass roots galleries and non-profit organizations. It is bringing new artists and ideas to the front, while giving long overdue endorsements to our mid-career and established artists. I am very excited about what the future holds.

  • Tom, I would be interested in seeing what, “art integrated back into the normal world,” looks like. Is that art that is decorative, all form and no content? I have always thought of the, “normal world,” as fairly status quo. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an advocate of art that relies on rhetoric to explain or validate itself. I think the highest form of art is that which form and content are working together.

    What I would like to see less of in Dallas, and any other city for that matter, is people patronizing frame shops looking for Monet prints, Ikea and other decorative art destinations parading as galleries.

    I have spent my entire career trying to create a gallery with art that is accessible to people, and serves as not only a commercial gallery but also a place to educate people what it means to support and appreciate contemporary art. That is the focus of an overwhelming majority of Dallas galleries. As a whole Dallas has done amazing work establishing a contemporary art community that is drawing national and international attention.

    The assessment that we are all in some ivory tower is pretty out of touch, and comes off a little bitter and resentful.

    Missy brings up a good point, if you see something missing, step into the arena, get crackin’ and make it happen. Hitting up blogs and dumping all everything is pretty sad. Please let us all know when you start your revolution, as I am sure it will not be televised.