Arts / Galleries

Dallas Art Fair Brings Texas and the World Together — the Ultimate Guide to the Art Bonanza

How Texas' First Art Fair Grew Up and Stayed True to its Hometown

BY // 04.09.19

This is your guide to the Dallas Art Fair’s best national and international booths, plus side action featuring junk shopping and a multicontinental performance artist making waves just footsteps from the Joule.

The Fair starts Thursday, April 11 and runs through Sunday, April 14 at Fashion Industry Gallery.

Decade Deux

Dallas Art Fair — the first art fair in Texas — began in a modest but promising way, with about 30 dealers. The fair’s co-founders — downtown developer John Sughrue and indie curator/artist Chris Byrne — wanted to attract galleries that were interested in developing connections with Dallas collectors and fostering new ones.

They sought more dialogue than mere commerce, with a commitment to keeping the content at a high level, while showcasing the wonders of Dallas, especially the Downtown Arts District, as a cultural destination.

Flash forward 11 years: The Dallas Art Fair enters it second decade this spring. Significant growth has taken place, as national and international art-world illuminati have embraced the fair. One hears German, French, Spanish, and Italian wafting across the lawn of Fashion Industry Gallery.

But what distinguishes this fair from others is the mix of the international with the Texan. Dallas Art Fair has been welcomed to town by the collector community and museum powers that be — especially Dallas Contemporary, Dallas Museum of Art, and Nasher Sculpture Center, which all benefit from the opening night Preview Gala.

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The fair is produced from inside Dallas by those invested in the city’s business and its cultural landscape, an important distinction unheard of in most fairs across America.

This fair has made a trip to metropolitan Texas in April as exciting and buzz worthy as one to Miami Beach for Art Basel in December.

The curatorial vision comes from Kelly Cornell, who has morphed from a sharp intern recruited from SMU in 2011 to fair director. Joining Cornell and heading up dealer relations is artist Brandon Kennedy.

Singular Solos

A dozen exhibitors mine depth via solo presentations at their booths, including the vibrational stripes of Las Vegas painter Tim Bavington at Morgan Lehman Gallery; Clare Woods at Simon Lee Gallery (celebrating her River Bend public art piece); Jonas Burgert’s oddly compelling figuration and implied narrative at Blain|Southern; L.A. painter Alec Egan, a young master of domestic interiors spun around wallpaper and text fragments, at Anat Ebgi; and Juno Calypso’s staged self-portraits at Division of Labour & TJ Boulting — our top pick for the fair.

Juno Calypso’s “A Clone of Your Own,” 2017, at Divison of Labour & TJ Boulting
Juno Calypso’s “A Clone of Your Own,” 2017, at Divison of Labour & TJ Boulting

London-based Calypso’s photographic setups in odd environments address femininity  and desire, serving up a millennial take on ideas first enacted by Cindy Sherman that are so in keeping with our times.

Dallas Contingent

In keeping with fair tradition, it’s an even playing field with galleries from Detroit (Library Street Collective), Dublin (Kerlin Gallery) and Dubai (Green Art Gallery, Carbon 12, Lawrie Shabibi) rubbing shoulders with Dallas gallerists.

As in years past, more than 10 percent of the exhibitors are local. Dallas dealers range from stalwarts of the scene such as Valley House Gallery and Conduit Gallery to the new energy represented by the recently minted programming of Sean Horton (Presents) and Gallery 12.26. Liliana Bloch Gallery — where the Dallas Art Fair Foundation went shopping last year for the DMA — debuts a new series of Leigh Merrill photos in black-and-white, while Sputnik Modern interjects a welcome dose of design.

Leigh Merrill's "Chair," 2016, at Liliana Bloch Gallery
Leigh Merrill’s “Chair,” 2016, at Liliana Bloch Gallery

Rounding out the Dallas contingency are And Now, Cris Worley Fine Arts, Erin Cluley Gallery, Galleri Urbane, and PDNB Gallery, joined by Fort Worth’s William Campbell Contemporary Art.

The Nationals + Internationals

Ninety gallerists descend upon Dallas from L.A., New York, San Francisco, Dublin, Berlin, Detroit, Dubai, Tokyo, Paris, Florence, Brussels, Mexico City, London, Bogotá, and Madrid.

Previewing the lineup, we’d single out those arriving from across the pond, beginning with the UK contingent. Don’t miss London power trio Sadie Coles HQ, where YBA Sarah Lucas is a best bet; Lisson Gallery, showing a football-related sculpture by Hugh Hayden that gives visceral pause; and Blain|Southern, traveling to Dallas for the first-time.

Hugh Hayden’s “Crown of Thorns,” 2018, at Lisson Gallery
Hugh Hayden’s “Crown of Thorns,” 2018, at Lisson Gallery

Also from London, Hales Gallery shows the luminous, geopolitically charged canvases of Frank Bowling, whose work is powerful enough to be the sole artwork in a room, as witnessed in his current installation for the entry of The Menil Collection in Houston.

From the Arab world, Carbon 12’s booth will feature an assemblage culled from weaponry and war by Sara Rahbar, last seen here in a solo at the Dallas Contemporary timed to the 2018 fair.

Another newcomer, Voloshyn Gallery, Kiev, offers a haunting view of life in the Ukraine, including Zhanna Kadyrova’s apartment block sculpture series, honed from acrylic bricks.

Always a prime player, Perrotin’s booth includes work by Paola Pivi, the Italian installation artist who captivated audiences with her bears at the Dallas Contemporary in 2016.

At Mexico City gallerist Enrique Guerrero, check out layered collages from the “Panamerican Suite” by Pablo Helguara. At James Cohan, Trenton Doyle Hancock’s saga of the Mound continues in all its glory, nicely timed to the artist’s concurrent shows at The Menil Collection and MASS MoCA.

Among West Coast exhibitors, investigate light-and-space urethane blocks by Peter Alexander at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery. Other welcome voices from Los Angeles are Anat Ebgi, Night Gallery, Luis de Jesus, François Ghebaly Gallery, and newcomer The Landing, which resuscitates artists from the dustbin of history.

Houston Quartet

For the first time in recent memory, four Houston dealers figure in the fair. Fresh from The Armory Show and ADAA The Art Show, Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino — also an Art Basel Miami Beach veteran — rolls out its Latin American stable, with works by Thomas Glassford, Liliana Porter, Marco Maggi, María Fernanda Cardoso, and new discovery Gustavo Díaz, who offers obsessive takes on utopian cities.

Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s “Whole body shot of male peacock spider, Maratus splendans #15, 1 Sep 2014, Rehead Lagoon,” at Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino

The 2019 ADAA The Art Show-exhibited Inman Gallery curates a triple play that explores the duality between abstraction and the body and/or land: Sigrid Sandström, Karin Davie, and late Texas modernist Dorothy Antoinette “Toni” LaSelle, who is well-known in Dallas and Fort Worth as a teacher at Texas State College for Women (now TWU) for more than 40 years.

The Guerrilla Girls would be proud: Besides Inman’s booth devoted to female artists, McClain Gallery focuses on one of Texas’ greatest painters: Dorothy Hood, the late Mexico City and Houston master of color-field abstraction tinged with Surrealism’s language of frottage.

Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, which has a big buzz going this spring with a new art space and ambitious programming, presents a slice of its stable that balances figuration and abstraction, from the brooding portraits of Cuban-born Enrique Martínez Celaya, a USC professor collected by the Whitney and The Met, to the sublime light-and-space canvases of Wimberley-based McKay Otto.

Side Shows

What’s a fair without accompanying popups to interject a dose of the unexpected and amp up affordable options.

Former Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Core Fellow Bill Davenport travels from Houston to reprise Bill’s Junk Road Show at Talley Dunn Gallery. A cross between a junk store, a retro tourist trap filled with collectible oddities (giant yarn balls, the world’s largest trove of macramé owls), and Davenport’s own museum-exhibited take on Pop art, this is a must for every high-low collector.

Bill Davenport’s “Junk Store Mantra,” 2016, at Talley Dunn Gallery
Bill Davenport’s “Junk Store Mantra,” 2016, at Talley Dunn Gallery

And, Jordan Roth is at it again; his bookend to Dallas Art Fair 2018 was a place of exuberant art shopping and an impromptu after-party following the Eye Ball. Reprising his successful locale from last spring, Ro2 Art returns to 1508 Commerce at the base of the historic Dallas Power & Light Building.

Jordan told PaperCity that he’ll present a solo for Texas/Nigeria-based Akirash, fresh from a performative exhibition at Houston’s Lawndale Art Center, as well as a sampler of gallery talent.

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