The second Dallas Art Fair will be held this weekend in the Arts District. KERA’s Stephen Becker talks to some of the local gallery owners about the importance of having a major art fair in town:
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On a recent Tuesday morning, Kristy Stubbs is sitting in the office at her gallery playing matchmaker. But the love connection she’s working on isn’t human.
Instead, she’s making a date for two pieces of art that will share close quarters in her booth at this weekend’s Dallas Art Fair.
STUBBS: “To me, they go together perfectly. An Impressionist painting of a woman sitting in a field painted in pale pinks, blues and greens next to a Damien Hirst explosive spin painting in the same colors – putting those together just makes me laugh. And it’s life to me – it just comes to life to me.”
This is the second year for the Dallas Art Fair, which features more than 50 galleries from across the country, Canada and London. Included in that total are nine North Texas galleries – four more than last year.
Barry Whistler, owner of the Barry Whistler Gallery in Deep Ellum, is one of those local newcomers.
WHISTLER: “What you heard last year [was] people kinda scratching their heads saying, “Let’s see.” Now you’ve got galleries saying, “Well, I wish we were in there.”
Those gallerists probably wish they were there to make contact with the 5,500 people who attended last year’s inaugural fair. Marty Walker is another local gallery owner who will have a booth there for the first time.
WALKER: “It may not equate to sales immediately, but as far as getting the work in front of a lot of people in a very short amount of time, it’s a great opportunity.”
Gallery spaces at last year’s and this year’s fair sold out. That’s an indication that out-of-town gallery owners want to tap into a Dallas economy that hasn’t been hit as hard by the recession as other cities.
And Stubbs says that people came to last year’s fair prepared to buy. She says she made sales to clients she’s known for 20 years as well as sales to new contacts.
STUBBS: “As many shows as I could have in one year, I couldn’t get every collector together for any one, or even any 10 nights. At a place like this – spread out over four days – I saw every collector that was in town and that made it down there that I would have wanted to see in a year.”
But art fairs don’t exist just to make dealers money or even to fill the collections of deep-pocketed collectors. For the art fan who’s more of a looker than a buyer, they offer a contrast to museums.
Because galleries operate closer to the ground, Whistler says fairs are a good gauge of art world trends.
WHISTLER: “It’s sort of a barometer, really of seeing what’s going on in the art world. … It gives you some sense of what’s going on, and if you want to call something “hot,” what’s hot right now and all of that sort of stuff.”