The Dallas Art Fair began with steady sales during its VIP preview on Thursday (April 20), dealers said, as the Dallas art market gets a boost from a burgeoning local population and growing interest in collecting.
Now in its 15th year, Texas’ premier art fair has earned a reputation for its cozy, laid-back atmosphere that reflects the slower pace of the South. Dealers say they often close deals several days after the close, and there’s less of a rush to buy during the VIP preview. Collectors often visit booths several times during the fair before making purchases.
“It’s intimate. It has a very different feel to other art fairs,” says fair director Kelly Cornell, who grew up in Dallas and started working at the fair as an intern. Dallas residents have shown Southern hospitality by opening their homes and private collections to visitors and hosting dinner parties for out-of-town guests, she says.
With about 90 exhibitors, this year marks the largest show since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Cornell says the event has recovered after several years of reconstruction. She adds, “The bruises are gone.”
For the first time there is even a satellite fair. The Dallas Invitational Art Fair, hosted by local dealer James Cope of the And Now gallery, runs Saturday and Sunday (April 22-23) across the street from the Dallas Art Fair and features galleries from New York, Los Angeles and across Europe. hotel rooms display the work of their artists.
Hannah Fagadau, co-owner of 12.26 Gallery in Dallas, pictured next to a work by artist Masamitsu Shigeta, purchased by the Dallas Museum of Art through the Dallas Art Fair Foundation Fund. Courtesy of the Dallas Art Fair
On Wednesday (April 19), before the fair opened to the public, curators at the Dallas Museum of Art selected 12 works from exhibitors to acquire for the museum’s permanent collection thanks to a $100,000 gift from the Dallas Art Fair Foundation . Other sales poured in on Thursday night. At the Perrotin stand, Hans Hartung’s T1975-R22 (1975) and Another Country by Tavares Strachan both sold for between $150,000 and 300,000. Luce Gallery, based in Turin, Italy, sold a painting by Hugo McCloud for $215,000 along with pieces by Peter Mohall, Ludovic Nkoth, Johanna Mirabel and Zeh Palito for undisclosed prices. New York-based Sundaram Tagore Gallery sold four works by Karen Knorr for $39,200 each, one by Miya Ando for $84,000 and another by Edward Burtynsky for $19,000.
The Shulamit Nazarian Gallery in Los Angeles had sold out its solo stand of works by painter Daniel Gibson. London-based Carl Kostyál’s booth featuring mixed-media sculptural tableaux by Mike Shultis was nearly sold out by the end of the show’s VIP preview. Fabienne Levy, a gallery based in Lausanne, Switzerland, sold three works by Ben Arpea ranging from $7,000 to $14,000 each. Cris Worley Fine Arts in Dallas sold works by Joshua Hagler, Marc Dennis, Kelli Vance, Johnny DeFeo and Celia Eberle for unknown prices; the gallery also placed four sumi ink rolls by Dallas-based artist Nishiki Sugawara-Beda with the DMA through its acquisition fund.
A strong collecting tradition
With a population of 1.3 million, Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and has traditionally had the most robust art market in the state thanks to its resilient economy, a dedicated group of local dealers, and a strong tradition of art collecting. The city is home to important institutions such as the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center, as well as the Kimbell Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum in nearby Fort Worth, which have contributed to the appreciation of art in the area.
“Their great-grandparents and grandparents collected art here in the 1920s and 1930s with bank and oil money and donated art. Their kids grew up with it,” says Jason Willaford, who co-founded Galleri Urbane with his wife Ree and moved to Dallas in 2009. And for residents who didn’t grow up with art collections, the fair itself has served as a powerful learning tool.
“A lot of people in Dallas may not necessarily come to my gallery firsthand, but they do come to an art fair because it’s a specialized event. Then they discover me and come to the gallery. It’s a great opportunity for introductions,” says Cris Worley, who opened her eponymous gallery in the city’s Design District in 2010.
The Dallas Museum of Art purchased a set of four works by Dallas-based artist Nishiki Sugawara-Beda of Cris Worley Fine Arts with money from the Dallas Art Fair Foundation. Courtesy of the artist and Cris Worley Fine Arts
Local dealers say the already strong Dallas market has seen tremendous growth in recent years. While the population of Dallas County remained stable during the pandemic, the city’s surrounding suburban counties experienced growth as high as 10% between 2020 and 2022, according to U.S. Census figures, while Texas was the top U.S. destination for Americans leaving the state in both 2021 and 2022. Nell Potasznik Langford of Cluley Projects, an offshoot of the Erin Cluley Gallery in Dallas that serves as an incubator space with a focus on regional and underrepresented artists, says transplants coming to Dallas are interested in adding work from local artists and galleries to their collections.
“The massive influx from the East Coast [and] West Coast patrons are great because they are well educated, cultured and have traveled a lot,” says Langford, adding that many are already familiar with collecting art. Cluley Projects opened during the pandemic but was well received by the local community, she said.
“Even if the economy isn’t great elsewhere, it’s always thriving in Texas because of all the different industries that converge here. It’s really conducive to a very successful art market and we’re really seeing that,” says Langford. (While Dallas is often most associated with Texas’ $320 billion oil and gas industrythe area also has strong sectors in technology, defense, healthcare, transportation, and finance.)
Artist Ricardo Partido, Martha’s Contemporary co-owners Meredith Williams and Ricky Morales, and artist Wes Thompson at the fair. Courtesy of Dallas Art Fair
The Dallas Art Fair has also supported the overall Texas art market: In addition to ten Dallas dealer booths, this year’s fair features five more galleries from Houston, Austin, and Fort Worth. Ricky Morales, the co-founder of Martha’s Contemporary, a gallery based in Austin, said he was excited to come back to the show after first participating last year.
“The Dallas Art Fair is one of the better fairs in the country,” says Morales. “Dallas is clearly a burgeoning scene and there are a lot of collectors here. It has helped elevate the Texas art scene to a more national level and that definitely helps us.”
Politically, Texas has long been a conservative stronghold, and in recent years state lawmakers have come under fire from both residents and Americans in other states. Abortion was banned in almost all cases in Texas last year after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and Texas is one of the US states where drag queen performances are targeted by lawmakers. Last year, a free speech organization found that Texas was banning more books of school libraries than any other state, and a bill introduced in the Senate earlier this year would ban nearly all gender-affirming health care for transgender Texans.
However, many parts of Texas have a strong culture of activism and artists working hard to champion progressive causes, Morales says.
“There are a lot of people here that we need to stand up for and build up,” he says. “Texas has a lot of diversity. The only way we can protect vulnerable communities is if we stand with them, not just label Texas as a piece of shit.”
2023 Dallas Art Fairto April 23, Fashion Industry Gallery, Dallas