A Speakeasy for Art: Hip New Chalet Dallas Challenges Museum Life in Perfectly Mellow Ways

BY // 11.20.15

Italian conceptual artist Piero Golia is recalibrating Dallas’ communal vibe in a hip way that shows an acute understanding of contemporary culture. The Dallas iteration of his so-called art speakeasy, Chalet Hollywood (2013), now on view at the Nasher Sculpture Center, is more of an experience than anything typically found in a museum.

Enter Chalet Dallas: Red velvet curtains signal the entrance to a salon championing the long-lost art of conversation, designed by Golia in collaboration with architect Edwin Chan. It inventively addresses a zeitgeist often bemoaned in sprawling urban centers — a lack of community.

Comfortable seating options and mellow lighting create a make-yourself-at-home vibe. In the corner, a fellow called Maneesh sits beside a sign that reads: “I am here for you. I will listen to you.” Maneesh transmits a vaguely spiritual presence and will converse with visitors about anything they find interesting, be it Sanskrit, Kashmir Shaivism or scuba diving in Mexico. The idea? Bring what you’ve got to the space and let it unfurl.

Punctuating Chalet Dallas is a virtuosic work by French artist Pierre Huyghe — a Plexiglas aquarium housing two objects of note: a levitating chunk of volcanic rock that signals a surreal anti-gravitational firmament, and a seashell, fashioned in the form of a smudged face, which houses a hermit crab. The creature is only marginally visible, leaving us to contemplate the importance of concealment and revelation, not to mention all things contemporaneous. Better still, the crab poses an ideal conversation starter.

Maneesh is ready — and awaiting your presence. (Through February 7, 2016)

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