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Dallasites Support the Arts in Aspen

by Gail Sachson 16 Aug 2010 4:13 PM

Dallasites made their presence known in Aspen recently both at the inaugural Art Aspen fair and in discussions for a new Aspen Art Museum.


Gail Sachson owns Ask  Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and consultation in the arts. She is Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee.

The Dallas art community is way cool and very smart. Smart enough to head for the hills (well, the mountains) in August. And Aspen, Colo.,  seems to be the place. The streets of the old mining town were filled earlier this month with the movers and shakers of our arty crowd. And they shook up the tony town with Dallas involvement in at least two major art happenings: a controversial proposal for a new Aspen Art Museum, supported by Dallas art patrons Kelli and Allen Questrom, and the first-ever Art Aspen fair (Aug. 5-8), which featured Dallas’ Dunn & Brown Contemporary.

Art Aspen, organized by The Hamptons Expo Group from Long Island, was touted  as a “Mini-Art Basel” and “Aspen’s most serious art buying event.” The Aspen response was, “Show me!” And they did.

The producers turned the town’s indoor ice rink into an inviting, well-lit, well-installed space and enticed Aspen collectors to hang up their hiking boots and park their bicycles for a few hours in order to banter and buy from 30 invited dealers, including Lisa Brown from Dunn & Brown. There were also representatives from Pace, New York; Nancy Hoffman, New York; and Alan Kloppel, Chicago. Among hundreds of works, the browsers and buyers could choose from a painting by David Bates, a silkscreen by Andy Warhol or a sculpture by Sol LeWitt. Dunn & Brown’s Helen Altman proved to be a popular seller.

But the most riveting show was not at the ice rink. It was at the Aspen City Hall, where the City Council met in a seven hour discussion to review the proposal for a new 26,000 square foot  downtown art museum. The current museum has been located a few blocks north of the center of town in a renovated hydo-powerplant since its inception by local artists  in 1979.

Since private funds would be raised to pay for the building, and there would be no admission charge, the building could be seen as a gift. However, one critic calls it a “Trojan horse.” Opponents claim the proposed  potential height of 47 feet, an exception to usual zoning regulations, would result in shaded streets, causingn icy conditions and accidents. Critics also decried the compromised process and the design by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, which  incorporates  a wooden screen on the facade, which they deemed alienating and out of place.

Supporting the move and the design are Dallasites and Aspen Art Museum Trustees Kelli and Allen Questrom. Kelli responded to the criticism in an e-mail: “Allen and I are delighted that Aspen will finally have the facility to accommodate the AAM’s mission as a fully credentialed non-collecting contemporary global ‘kunsthalle,’ whose leading edge exhibitions & educational programs will serve its growing regional constituency, as well as millions of visitors.”

After much discussion, the proposal passed. Aspen will have a new museum by 2013. There will be peace in the Valley again.