Arts / Galleries

Dallas’ Other Art Fair Brings Art to the People, Not Just a BMW Crowd

Making Art More Democratic and Accessible is a Major First Year Success

BY // 09.23.19
photography Steve Bither

Fairs have become big business in the art world. More and more of them are now being created and are occurring pretty much year-round. The biggest one being Art Basel which takes place in Basel, Switzerland (its namesake in June) and in Miami Beach (in December) and Hong Kong (in March).

I marveled at the ever-growing capitalist ecosystem of the fairs after returning from the spectacle that happened in South Florida earlier this year.

Other large art fairs around the globe include the Armory Show in New York and Frieze in London. Dallas has its very own, the Dallas Art Fair, and now another aptly titled The Other Art Fair, which was held over the weekend.

Being a veteran of many high profile art fairs, I found The Other Art Fair to be refreshingly democratic and decidedly less glitzy. There was not a queue of BMWs parked out front (the luxury automaker often is a major Art Basel sponsor) waiting to shuttle collectors about town. Instead one saw a parking lot filled with the cars of patrons who perhaps ventured over from Fort Worth or Plano to check out the Fair.

The crowd came in shorts and flip flops, rather than toting Birkin bags. Attendees engaged with artists and actually walked away with their purchases and perhaps a back story to that work. They did not have to go through an art consultant on retainer who then arranged to have pieces shipped to their home in East Hampton.

“I made so many new friends while walking around with my gin spritz,” Park House co-owner Deborah Scott says. “The Fair was friendly, fun and most of all accessible.”

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I was intrigued by the work that local artist Brian Chaffin had brought for his booth. His pieces were created by using shredded paper and other materials that were run through various types of shredders. The works were abstract and had a wonderful textural quality from the layering necessary to produce them.

Other artists whose work I found compelling included Tom Bandage, a sculptor who had traveled from Austin to take part in the Fair, and Chika Wu who had come all the way from Taiwan to show her paintings.

Initiatives like this are a great entry point for engaging new audiences for the arts in North Texas. Art should be for the masses and not just to view at venerable institutions such as the Kimbell Art Museum. Art should be something to own as well.

To further intrigue Other Art Fair visitors to explore their own inner artistic voices, programs were planned under the title of The Canvas Lab over the weekend. These workshops led by local artists and makers ranged from “ink painting on alternative surfaces with Lauren Tompkins” to “dyed and coiled bowl weaving with Delaney Smith.” 

The Other Art Fair
The Other Art Fair included immersive experiences and workshops. (Photo by Lydia Lee)

The presenting partner of The Other Art Fair is Saatchi Art, which is a curated online platform for learning about artists, both emerging and established, and purchasing their work. Started in 2011 in London, The Other Art Fair now has outposts in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Sydney and Melbourne — with more cities being planned.

Some of the artwork at The Other Art Fair started at $150. The creation of this Fair seemed like the natural progression in connecting patrons (seasoned collectors and perhaps those who have yet to take the plunge by buying a painting or photograph) with artists in person. The works shown at the larger and generally much more expensive fairs are handled by galleries and not directly by artists. Many artists shown at fairs such as Art Basel are no longer alive ( Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, etc.) and others that are still here and creating are such celebrities in their own right now (Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, etc.) that it’s near impossible to gain access to them.

For The Other Art Fair, attendees were able to walk from booth to booth and engage with artists about their work.

The artists shown at the Dallas Market Center, the location of this year’s Fair, were selected by a panel of experts. The Dallas edition’s selection committee was comprised of Rebecca Wilson (chief curator and VP, Art Advisory at Saatchi Art), Hannah Fagadau (co-owner at 12.26 gallery), Frankie Garcia III (curator and founder at FGIII Fine Art Productions), Jennifer Klos (art advisor and founder at Collector House), Michael Wyatt (curator and founder at Full City Rooster), and Ree Willaford (owner and director at Galleri Urbane).

Some of Dallas’ cultural crowd spotted at the preview party on Thursday night and throughout the weekend perusing the Fair included Robert Weatherly, Rosa Langley, Rachel Scoggins, Shelby Wagner, Niven Morgan, Jencey Keeton, Ellie Miles, Dustin Holcomb, Valerie Chayofska, Matt Gilley, Vodi Cook, Chad Cohen, Renee Lagarde Morris, Kaleta Blaffer Johnson, and Lauren Millet.

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