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Sizing Up the Dallas Art Fair


by Gail Sachson 6 Feb 2009

The scene outside the Dallas Art Fair Thursday night. Guest Blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is Vice-Chair of the Dallas Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee. It’s all here! The art. The gallery-goers dressed in black. The I.D. badges. The […]

CTA TBD

The scene outside the Dallas Art Fair Thursday night.

Guest Blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is Vice-Chair of the Dallas Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee.

It’s all here! The art. The gallery-goers dressed in black. The I.D. badges. The press. The flowers, the cafe and the dealers on cellphones. Based upon a Thursday afternoon preview, the Dallas Art Fair, a three-day 30-plus gallery visual feast, will be a success – at least as far as entertainment and education are concerned. Sunday night at 5, when the art goes back in the crates (what’s not sold, that is), and the dealers go back to San Francisco, New York, Chicago and elsewhere, we’ll know if Dallas will be in the running for a second annual art fair, or if this was just a one night (or three night) stand.

Occupying the Fashion Industry Gallery (F.I.G.), where fashion is usually the art, the galleries have taken over the spaces usually reserved for pants, not paints. The first floor spaces seem cramped, and Tommy Bahama shirts and racks of dresses still on display confuse the gallerygoer. Is this art? The second floor layout is far more spacious and welcoming.

Actually, a confusing, stop-you-in-your-tracks installation would be welcome. Although of high caliber and of recognizable names, most of the paintings, sculpture, works on paper and the few video pieces seem too tame. Is that Dallas’ reputation? Are Dallas collectors thought to be easily shocked by the new? I can almost hear the dealers’ conversation: “But will it sell in Dallas?” Hopefully, the Nevelsons, the John Chamberlains and the William Wegmans will sell, so that the galleries will make a profit and return. (Save Feb. 4-7, 2010)

So what is to be remembered after an all-too quick walk-through?

There is an abundance of Donald Sultan works (and I like Donald Sultan). There is a fabulous print by Frank Stella and works by Chuck Close at Pace Prints. Photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson from the Peter Fetterman Gallery from Santa Monica caught my eye. There are the postcard embellished paintings by Wegman from Houston’s Texas Gallery.

But the piece I remember most, because it made me smile, is from James Kelly Contemporary. Kelly, the SMU-trained dealer, is now based in Santa Fe.  He interned under the DMA’s Harry Parker and then worked with Laura Carpenter at Delahunty.  Kelly’s artist, Peter Sarkisian, mounted an ink jet print of a truck on a hollow board (there are several different vehicles in the series), then inserted a playstation with a video to show through  the truck’s window (above). Small, simple and stunning.

Those familiar with Richard Serra’s sculpture at the Nasher Sculpture Center will be especially pleased to see a Serra etching and aquatint at the Kelly Contemporary space. Complementing the George Segal show at the Nasher are four Segal home-size sculptures from $35,000-$125,000 at Houston’s McClain Gallery.

As a whole, the Dallas Art Fair is different from other larger fairs.

There is no loud audio luring you around corners. No mesmerized crowds gathering to watch a performance artist or a captivating video. No shocking art. No site-specific installation. Not too much to tantalize, titillate or talk about at cocktail parties.

Yet, there is also no getting lost in a maze. No V.I.P. bouncer-guarded lounge. And no immediate sense of overwhelming dizziness and fatigue.  I can’t wait to go back.

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  • Thanks for the early look, Gail. Can’t wait to see the truck! I’m headed over now and will report back on the crowds.

  • Sounds like Dallas art communbity aping the other bigger cities again. The usual provincial route.
    Why not support the art revolution that is challenging the abuses of modern art, and the art gallery system? Why not support what is innovative instead of what is derivative?
    Great things are happening in Dallas, its a shame to cover just the ones that are second tier imitations.

  • Great post Gail. Thanks for the tidbit about the Peter Sarkisian work. That caught my eye as well, and I wondered if there were others in a series.

    Connecting galleries to collectors is what drives this. But even if you, like me, won’t be making any purchases — last night, someone asked me what I collect, and I almost said “dust bunnies” — the art fair is still a cool, indoor gallery-walk, well worth checking out. As Gail says, it’s a smaller, saner version of the “art overload” Brad Ford Smith described for us in his blogging from Art Basel Miami.

  • Great post Gail. You are right about DAF being a bit short on shock value. A lot of the galleries were at Art Basel Miami, and I can just hear them asking themselves “Will it sell in Dallas”. But there are really some gems to be found at this art fair. I loved all the work on paper.

    • Gail,

      Thanks for the post, we really enjoyed the Dallas Art Fair, and thought it was well attended and well organized. Peter’s “Yellow Truck” was very popular, but is only one from the series of fourteen. Please visit our website or email me with questions or if you’d like to see images of the others from the Registered Driver Series. Each car has it’s own unique video.

      [email protected]