Art Review: A Look at the Dallas Art Fair

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Mira Dancy's artwork Sleeping Source, My Sediment, 2022

The Dallas Art Fair launched in 2009 on the heels of the Great Recession and during one of the worst economic times in recent years. In 2023, the fair has grown into a global event, attracting galleries from art hot spots such as Barcelona, Paris, Milan, Brussels, Zurich, Vienna, Antwerp, London, Florence, Los Angeles, New York, and of course, Dallas. A total of 85 galleries were in attendance for the 15th edition of the fair held April 20th -23rd. I spent the weekend taking it all in, so I’m going to take you through the Fair’s highs and lows and discuss the role art fairs play in general for gallerists, artists, art dealers, collectors, consultants, advisors, and just regular people.

This was my third trip to the Dallas Art Fair, and I noticed something different this year. In years past, the second-floor galleries haven’t impressed me too much. But this year the Fair sent a letter to exhibitors to submit artwork beforehand. Maybe the Fair attempted to take on a more curatorial role, but for whatever reason, the upstairs galleries definitely kept pace with the first-floor marquee exhibits. A refreshing change indeed.

Stephen D'Onofrio's Orange Tree acrylic on canvas painting

Certain “trends” emerged as well. There were myriad examples of florals and botanicals, still lifes, pink colors, and different metallics, including gold leaf accents. I happen to love florals and botanicals, still lifes, and metallics, so walking through these galleries was quite enjoyable. Gallery Urbane in Dallas exhibited a work by Stephen D’Onofrio (who is a Philadelphia based contemporary artist) titled, Orange Tree. It immediately caught my attention. The layering of flat painterly elements creates a striking depth in the work and the dark background retreats as the brightly painted, centrally oriented orange tree moves forward in the image. The gallerist then drew my attention to the countless pop culture references, for which D’Onofrio is known. Various technological references, Dutch still life masters, and even graffiti street art are all present themselves in the painting. These elements only make the painting even more interesting and into something more than a well-executed, pretty composition.

Polite guidance from a well-informed gallerist is always helpful, and I love hearing the artist’s intent behind a painting. I generally feel, especially with regard to contemporary work, that the artist’s motivation can make or break a work. It’s one thing to think a painting is merely beautiful, but to really begin to get to know a painting, i.e., the reason for the painting, the selection of certain elements in the painting, allows for a much deeper appreciation.

Velia de luliis’s Abundance tondo floral paintingCarlos Rolón’s Untitled tondo floral and botanical painting

Velia de luliis’s Abundance and Carlos Rolón’s Untitled are two tondo paintings of colorful floral images and botanicals. The former, a relatively simple composition, also utilizing a dark background, is a reference to the Dutch tradition, while the latter achieves a wonderful three-dimensional effect as he layers the paint against a gold leaf background.

Art fairs are a great opportunity for both the artist and dealer to exhibit work in front of people who otherwise may never get to see it. Fairs are an important part of awareness in a hugely competitive market. They are a good chunk of revenue for some dealers and facilitate networking opportunities with collectors from around the world. Fairs can also be instrumental with regard to the arts and culture status of a city. Take Dallas for example, The DAF has greatly contributed to the city’s international stature within the global art community. But art fairs are not without their critics, however.

New York Times critic, Jerry Saltz says, “I used to be a real hard-ass about art fairs. In 2006, when I was still at the Village Voice, I wrote a column titled "Feeding Frenzy", in which I called them ‘ “adrenaline-addled spectacles. . . perfect storms of money, marketability, and instant gratification. . . tent-city casinos.” ’ They still drive me crazy and wear me out, but now I see them for what they've always been: Big sleepover parties where people sniff each other's scents and make connections in a hurry. Artists get a chance to make a little money, and critics -- almost by accident -- get to see galleries we might not otherwise have the chance to visit. So I've corked my blowhole.”

While I agree (somewhat) with Jerry Saltz, this year's Dallas Art Fair was a joy. The art was refreshing and inspiring. Most of the gallerists were friendly and knowledgeable. And the whole production is a marked improvement from the previous two years.

True Westerners for One Strange Hour, 2023 by Yowshien Kuo

Apart from simply hosting (for a price) these galleries every year, and providing unique opportunities. the Dallas Art Fair gives in another way. This year, through funds raised by the Dallas Art Fair Foundation, the Dallas Museum of Art was gifted $100,000 from the acquisition program and added 12 new works to its permanent collection. The new acquisitions will help bolster the representation within the museum's collection of work from Asian, Latin American, and African artists. This year, the museum acquired work by two Dallas-based artists represented by local galleries: four works on paper mounted onto fabric by Nishiki Sugawara-Beda from Cris Worley Fine Arts, and Riley Holloway’s Records on Repeat, 2023 from Erin Cluley Gallery. The museum also selected Masamitsu Shigeta’s Interior Flower, 2023 from Dallas art gallery 12.26.

Works acquired by the DMA via the fund this year also included True Westerners for One Strange Hour, 2023 by Yowshien Kuo, from Turin-based Luce Gallery; Yifan Jiang’s Pelican, 2022 from Los Angeles gallery Meliksetian Briggs; Portrait Vignette: Healing, 2022 by Uuriintuya Dagvasambuu from Sapar Contemporary in New York; Out in the Open, 2023 by Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber from Toronto gallery Patel Brown; Karla Diaz’s watercolour painting Torera (bullfighter), 2023 from Luis de Jesus Los Angeles; and Self-Pollinating Androgyne Dreamscile Covers the World in Yes(es) and Possibilities, 2023 by Chelsea Culprit from Morán Morán, a gallery in Los Angeles.

Since the Foundation began in 2016, $775,000 has been raised and 55 works have been placed in the Museum’s permanent collection.

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(Cover Image: Photo Credit Trish Howell, Fig.1: Mira Dancy, Seeping Source, My Sediment, 2022, acrylic on canvas. Fig.2: Stephen D'Onofrio, Orange Tree, 2023, acrylic on canvas. Fig.3 Velia de luliis, Abundance, 2022, gouache on canvas. Fig.3: Carlos Rolón, Untitled, 2022, oil and 24k gold leaf on canvas. Fig.4: Yowshien Kuo, True Westerners for One Strange Hour, 2023, oil on canvas. Photo Credits Trish Howell.)

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