Looking Back at the Dallas Art Fair — the First-Timers Tell All: Record Number of Visitors in Year 10 and More to ComeBY Catherine D. Anspon // 05.07.18
"Untitled 2," 2017, mixed media, acrylic on felt, thread and fabric, 28 x 16" by Alicia Henry (MFA, Yale) was shown on a red painted wall at Liliana Bloch Gallery's DAF booth and acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art thanks to the Dallas Art Fair Foundation.
Works by Ryan Goolsby and Bret Slater against the painted walls of Liliana Bloch Gallery. The Dallas gallerist took a chance and exhibited for the first time at the Dallas Art Fair.
Two photographs by the Dallas artist Leigh Merrill at Liliana Bloch Gallery in a dialogue with the chic wallpapered walls of McClain Gallery, in from Houston.
A wall of cheeky paintings by Bret Slater at Liliana Bloch Gallery, making her Dallas Art Fair debut.
The power three who made year 10 happen: Dallas Art Fair co-founder John Sughrue, Fair director Kelly Cornell, exhibitor relations director Brandon Kennedy. (Photo Daniel Driensky)
Bivins Gallery of Dallas was among the first-time Fair exhibitors. The gallery devoted its booth to a monographic exhibition by West Coast artist Mary Hull Webster.
At Bivins Gallery, Mary Hull Webster's light boxes and projections drew curatorial and collector interest for the under-known mid-career talent, who is being rediscovered.
Dr. Cindy Lisica checks out McClain Gallery, including wallpaper by artists Nathalie Du Pasquier and George Sowden, from ZigZagZurich, setting a stage for works by Peter Halley, Leon Polk Smith, Julia Kunin, Mara Held, Rob Reasoner, and Jonathan Seliger.
Among Lisica's picks: Erick Swenson's "Untitled (Ice Head), 2004, urethane resin and paint on MDF, at Dallas stalwart Talley Dunn Gallery.
Dr. Lisica made a point to visit the booth of "great friend Enrique of Galeria Enrique Guerrero in Mexico City and our newest neighbor at 4411 Montrose in Houston, Guerrero Projects."
Juan Genovés' "Joli," 2017, an acrylic and canvas on board exhibited by NYC's Marlborough Contemporary, caught Lisica's eye.
Dr. Cindy Lisica says, "My friends at Drexel Galeria in Monterrey, Mexico, presented several works by Pedro Escapa that referenced art history and "Death of painting is a play of light" through painting and photography assemblage. "Untitled" works pay homage to Baldessari (left) and Serra (right)."
Lisica pick: The Haas Brothers solo at Lora Reyonds Gallery, in from Austin.
Sharon Core's editioned photograph "Four Heart Cakes" from the series "Thiebauds" (2004), on view at Yancey Richardson Gallery's photo-focused DAF booth. Lisica says, "The gallery attendant mentioned that many visitors, like I was, were drawn into the booth by the lustrous cakes."
Dr. Cindy Lisica (right) and Tokyo-native, Dallas artist Yasuyo Maruyama, took in the Fair. The painter will headline soon at Cindy Lisica Gallery in Houston.
Tom LaDuke's mixed media and acrylic on canvas "Early Signs", 2016, was among Lisica's discoveries at Miles McEnery Gallery, in from New York.
"Eye Ball Party 2018 had a nostalgic 80s theme - Girls just wanna have fun!," says Lisica.
Jordan Roth and Cindy Lisica at Ro2 Pop Up, in a storefront building just up the street from the Dallas Art Fair.
Lisica stopped by the Dallas Contemporary, and reviewed its trifecta of shows: "A large embroidered American flag with words, "You are safe here with me" repeated across the stripes holds its place on the back wall of the "Carry me home" solo exhibition of Tehran-born, New York-based artist Sara Rahbar."
Eric Fischl's "If Art Could Talk" at the Dallas Contemporary, drew praise from Lisica and fellow museum goers for its fresh approach to the 1980s art star.
Architect/artist/designer Harry Nuriev's "6 Fears" installation at the Dallas Contemporary, completed the museum's trifecta unveiling during Fair week.
Laura Owens' survey at the Dallas Museum of Art was among the fare timed to Dallas Art Fair.
"Detail of Laura Owens' absolutely lush and glorious paint texture. This is what Owens does best," says Lisica.
San Antonio art consultant Jana Cothren (left) of 3C Art Advisory and her client, Dallas fashion designer Finley Moll stopped by the Inman Gallery booth to admire a canvas by Houston-based painter and Core Fellow alum Dana Frankfort.
A canvas by Rebecca Ward at Ronchini Gallery, London. Still affordable, the rising Texas artist from Waco, priced at $15,000, is already in the Rachofsky Collection. Art advisor Jana Cothren singled this work out as her top find from the Fair.
Kristen Cliburn at Dallas staple Cris Worley Fine Arts was described by art adviser Jana Cothren as a standout and "heavenly." The painter is based in Houston, and known for her vaporous abstractions.
Another find consultant Jana Cothren zeroed in on was Richard Prince's nuanced acrylic and newspaper on canvas. Entitled "Good Painting (lovely)," 2014, the work was an understated star of Ronchini Gallery of London, among the Fair's posse of European dealers.
Among Cothren's picks: painter Armando Castro's works, which stopped traffic at Beatriz Esguerra Gallery, in from Bogota. The dealer stayed on in Dallas keeping a pop-up space open the week after the Fair, in the Dallas Design District.
Berndnaut Smilde's enigmatic photo "Nimbus Duguan Himalayas Museum," 2015, at Ronchini Gallery, was singled out by both Dr. Lisica and Jana Cothren as a memorable image from among the 92 booths at the 10th edition of the Dallas Art Fair. The Dutch artist's work reminded us of Texan Irby Pace's puffs of smoke in landscapes.
SMU Grad and Magenta Plains' director Olivia Smith returned home to make her Dallas Art Fair debut.
Magenta Plains at the Dallas Art Fair showing paintings hung salon style by Zach Bruder bracketed by a pair of Bill Saylor canvases.
Olivia Smith also checked out The Warehouse during her return to her hometown as a Fair exhibitor.
House party at the family home of Olivia Smith, an evening that led to impromptu piano performances, paired with a pop-up for works by Zach Bruder and Bill Saylor, the pair of painters showcased in Smith's Magenta Plains booth at the Fair.
Reunion time Saturday night: Fred Holston, Sofia Bastidas, host Olivia Smith, Kyle Hobratschk, Nan Coulter, host Carol Leone (Smith's mom and SMU piano professor).
As Dallas Arts Month recedes in the rear view window, we reflect upon Year X of the event at its epicenter — Dallas Art Fair, which reached a crescendo this spring, drawing a record 17,500 visitors.
Artsy to Artnet and Artnews all reported upon the 2018 Fair, replete with buzzed about sales, top artworks, the players. New York’s prime gallerists from Paul Kasmin to Galerie Lelong reported intense interest and acquisitions made. At Kasmin, for example, a $225K Lee Krasner, and a $95K Ian Davenport canvas, sold in advance of the Dallas Museum of Art’s solo for the artist next September, were typical of this collector-driven fair where buyers were savvy and aware.
For our Fair recap, we went with the human-side, and chose Texas-centric, surveying three first-time exhibitors — two Dallas gallerists and one New York City dealer with hometown roots — about the experience of being among the 90-some vetted dealers making it into the 10th edition.
And we caught up with a first-time Fair visitor, armed with a PhD in art history who heads a university department, to discern her impressions of the Dallas Art Fair brand.
The Big Risk
For Dallas gallerist Liliana Bloch, the Fair loomed as an opportunity — and a financial risk at $10K — for an emerging dealer hitting the five-year mark, finally attracting serious collector interest from Dallas regulars on the Artnews Top 200 Collector list.
Bloch took a leap of faith, which she felt was necessary to attract exposure to her artists. Her gamble, and gut, paid off.
In an email to PaperCity, the dealer revealed how the Fair had seriously elevated her game.
Bloch says, “Our first year participating and we reached a milestone: The first Dallas gallery to sell work to the Dallas Museum of Art through the Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition Program. And that work was by a woman! Alicia Henry stunned the audiences with her unforgettable portraits.”
“I was told that the decision on Henry’s piece was unanimous. This made the acquisition extra special.”
Bloch’s booth was designed to dialogue with a gamut of offerings from her stable, including the disparate aesthetics of artists Leigh Merrill, Ryan Goolsby, and Bret Slater. A video was also part of the experience, described by the gallerist: “Bogdan P. K. Perzyński’s 34 minutes of gorgeous, and melodic sounds of the last uncut European forest located in the border of Poland and Belorussia (Belarus)”
Bloch singled out a neighbor, putting to rest the notion that the high stakes world of art fairs is without civility.
“It was a pleasure to share our outside wall with the awesome team at McClain Gallery [in from Houston]. Leigh Merrill’s “Flower Variation” series looked fantastic next to their CoopDPS Milano wallpaper. It proved that great pieces don’t compete but activate any space. [McClain director] Erin Dorn was the best neighbor we could have.”
The dealer also heaped praise on the homegrown Fair — co-founded by independent curator Chris Byrne and Dallas real estate developer and downtown advocate John Sughrue in 2009 — which has operated for a decade at a decidedly non-convention center space: Fashion Industry Gallery, in the heart of downtown’s Dallas Arts District. (Byrne stepped away after year nine, to concentrate on curatorial projects, especially championing the work of visionary artist Susan Te Kahurangi King.) The Fair director, Kelly Cornell, rose through the ranks, from her start as intern in 2011 to taking over officially as Fair director in 2017. Artist-curator Brandon Kennedy heads exhibitor relations.
Bloch says, “Kudos to all and each one of the staff members at the DAF. They were helpful, efficient, and dedicated to connect us with art networks from all over!”
Finally, the Dallas gallerist revealed the secret behind the avant-garde look of her booth: “Our multicolored walls were a happy accident. We ran out of white paint right before the fair, and our trip to Home Depot took us to the paint section, where the colored gradations, and transitions inspired us to honor each piece with their own hue.
“So we had a booth with vertical stripes of black, bubble-gum pink, off white, sanguine red, light blue, and mint green.”
A Feminist and an Iconoclast
Another Dallas dealer, and first-time exhibitor to DAF, found success. The gallerist did so with a challenging program that devoted an entire booth to a decade of work by an under-known California talent.
The artist in question was unique in having sound-based work at the Fair.
Bivins Gallery unveiled a solo exhibition, “Illuminations,” by Mary Hull Webster, who came in from Northern California to meet collectors at the booth of Karen and Michael Bivins.
Karen Bivins, reached via email, told PaperCity about the Dallas debut for Webster’s electronica, which also marked the artist’s first major show in Texas.
“Mary [Hull Webster] creates all of her own sounds, and each light stack had its own track, which generated a hum — you felt like you were entering a sanctuary when you walked into our [booth] space.”
Bivins says, “The light stacks, light boxes, and aluminum panels featured in the show ranged in date from 2008-2018, and averaged in price from $20,000-25,000. We had many curators, art consultants, and museum directors come by. We sold a variety of works that went to both Dallas collectors, two of which were prominent, and one out of state collector.”
Bivins is optimistic about the future potential sparked by the Fair: “We did not have any museum purchases, however multiple museums expressed interest in Mary’s work. Several international galleries also expressed an interest in representing her.”
Meanwhile, another narrative signaled a homecoming. SMU grad Olivia Smith — director of NYC-based, first-time exhibitor Magenta Plains — paired inter-generational talents Zach Bruder and Bill Saylor, both of whom found favor with collectors.
A good dilemma to have, as reported by Artnews, was running out of paintings by Bruder. Smith, nimble on her feet, enlisted FedEx. Read the anecdote, and what the authoritative mag thought of Year Ten, here.
PaperCity caught up with Smith back in Manhattan, amidst the fever of Frieze week, where Magenta is also exhibiting. The 30-year-old dealer shared impressions of her first year as DAF exhibitor: “Being a native Dallasite, it only made sense to bring Magenta Plains to the fair in my hometown. Reconnecting with the Dallas art scene, its institutions, and its supporters was particularly special for me, as I am a product of growing up within the city’s schools and museums.”
“It’s amazing to see how the Dallas art scene has exploded in the last several years— there are many facets to explore, from DIY art spaces to private collections.”
Smith says, “The paintings in our booth by Bill Saylor and Zach Bruder were incredibly well received and we were very happy to forge new relationships which we feel are lasting. My peers and colleagues visiting from New York felt welcomed by the hospitality Dallas showed and in general sales were strong throughout. Many fellow exhibitors mentioned returning to the fair next year.”
And there was an after-hours happening involved too, which added a touch of community to the exhibitor experience for Magenta Plains and friends. The Dallas native curated a chic cocktail affair at her family’s Highland Park casa, with a little help from fellow art dealers. Smith says, “The highlight of my week was hosting a collector soirée at my childhood home on Saturday night to celebrate the fair with friends Half Gallery, Lyles & King, Night Gallery, and Canada.
“We staged some artwork alongside my family’s personal collection as an extension of the Dallas Art Fair like a one night pop-up. It was fantastic seeing the paintings installed in a very livable, domestic setting. The night ended in impromptu piano performances by hosts and guests alike — truly a night to remember!”
An Art Historian Weighs in
Dr. Cindy Lisica, a Texas transplant, wields an art history PhD from University of the Arts London, and has worked at museums from the Warhol in Pittsburgh, to L.A.’s MOCA, the Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London, and The Menil in Houston. She also directs her own gallery in Houston, where she is based, and heads up the art history department at Houston Baptist University. Lisica told PaperCity via phone that she traveled to Dallas (her first visit to the city) specifically for the Fair, and labeled the entire experience as “impressive.”
In a follow-up email, the art historian-gallerist-curator singled out some of her favorite moments from Fair week.
At DAF, Lisica made a point of visiting the booth of Miles McEnery Gallery. She says, “Miles was present at the booth and is very personable. His gallery in Chelsea has been open since 1999, and he exhibits a range of thoughtful paintings that pop and other mixed media works. Multi-layered, complex artwork by Tom LaDuke is both curious and pleasing. We will see Miles McEnery at the Seattle Art Fair (August) next [where Lisica and he will both exhibit]. Check out all of Lisica’s top Fair picks in the slideshow.
The Dallas Contemporary and the Dallas Museum of Art were both on Lisica’s circuit. Each museums resonated, with programming connected to the high tide of the Fair and accompanying Dallas Arts Month.
Lisica says of her DMA visit: “I have been a fan of Laura Owens since I was a grad student working at MOCA Los Angeles during her very first museum solo there in 2003. Some of those works were on view at the DMA in this very comprehensive exhibition.”
“The new Owns works were bigger, brighter, and even more rich than the quieter, softer pieces of the past.”
The recent works relate to today’s digital world of logos and signs, as well as printed media ads and newspapers, whereas previously her artwork had a more organic touch featuring small animals and insects in trees. Owens continues to give us the thickness and dimension in her layered paintings by squeezing out paint from the tubes and spreading it like icing.”
“The exhibition also includes a collaboration room with furniture fabricated by her ex-boyfriend, artist/designer Jorge Pardo. Another gallery in the museum features smaller paintings hung along the top of the ceiling around the space, presenting abstracted clock faces, some with moving hands, perhaps representing time zones of places unknown.”
Lisica then honed in on the trifecta of exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary:
“A large embroidered American flag with words, ‘You are safe here with me’ repeated across the stripes holds its place on the back wall of the “Carry Me Home” solo exhibition of Tehran-born, New York-based artist Sara Rahbar. Her work is presented in sculptures and installations across three gallery spaces. Each space features different tonalities, mediums, and other material iterations on the theme of war and violence on the body, reminding the viewer that ‘home’ carries different meanings over time and place. The darkly lit spaces with single warm spotlights on each piece increases the drama, or trauma, felt by the viewer.”
“A second exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary, Eric Fischl’s “If Art Could Talk” presented a retrospective of paintings from the 1990s to today. The thematic thread is that each scene contains artwork being depicted within the scene — as if the art is looking at itself, voyeuristically and sometimes comedically. Many of the pieces bore curious, provocative, sometimes disturbing subject matter — also one large work that pokes fun at art fairs — perfect opportunity to display it in Dallas.”
“This is a must-see exhibition for Fischl fans and offers a great deal of pieces in one place. The Dallas Contemporary is a fantastic space. It was also rewarding to see young artists alongside the likes of Fischl and holding their own.”
“Witness Harry Nuriev (born 1984, Moscow) whose “6 Fears” installation looms in a large single space — swans made of cut up tires and electrical tape, copper wire holding their necks in place, and purple paint (kitschy lawn swans, you could call them). The merry-go-round / carousel in among them was meant to be used by children visiting the gallery. Electric cars (very basic robots) are on a vertical platform (pane of glass) moving and making noise, but not the noise that you would expect in a park or playground. Very robotic, repetitive, and strange.”
A Consultant Names Names
Finally, Jana Cothren, founder and director of San Antonio-based 3C Art Advisory — a regular attendee at the Dallas Art Fair — shared her picks for Best Booths in the slideshow — including the breakout Texas painter, brought by a London dealer, who should be on your collector list.
Scroll through to see takes from the trio of first-time exhibitors — Bloch, Bivins, and Magenta Plains’ Smith — impressions of art historian Dr. Lisica, and then highlights from this out-of-town advisor.