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Arts & Entertainment

A Sampling of the Best Art and Galleries at the Dallas Art Fair and the Dallas Invitational

The Arts District is the nerve center for Dallas Arts Month, and this weekend is home to the two most notable events this April. Here are your best bets—and what Dirk saw.
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Dallas-based artist Zeke Williams installed this 20 foot long piece, his biggest to date, in the vestibule space at the Dallas Art Fair. Courtesy the artist

At 11:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd were perusing the selection of Tom Anholt paintings on display at the booth of British gallery Josh Lilley. From there, Dirk’s path took him to Erin Cluley Gallery, giving Cluley herself an exciting start to the weekend-long bender known as Dallas Art Fair. I lost the trail of the Big German after that. It seemed a bit too conspicuous to stalk Dirk and his wife Jessica as they wandered through more than 90 booths at this year’s fair. Besides, there is a lot of art worth seeing at not just one, but two fairs this weekend. 

There are a few methods to seeing all of the art. You can go local: 12 of the booths at the fair are Dallas/Fort Worth exhibitors. Don’t miss the always impressive booths of Valley House Gallery and William Campbell Gallery. Across the street at the Dallas Invitational, the ratio is about the same, although there are only 14 galleries occupying rooms on the Fairmount Hotel’s 17th floor. 

A strategy I’ve used in the past is to seek out the pieces bought by the Dallas Art Fair Foundation to be placed in the Dallas Museum of Art collection. But this year, there are just three and they are impossible to miss. The museum chose three massive, maximalist works by Thania Petersen, JooYoung Choi, and Ailbhe Ní Bhriain. If the Choi piece, which sits at the top of the stairs, looks familiar, you might’ve seen the immersive exhibition of her work at the Crow Collection two years ago. 

But the best strategy is to put on comfortable shoes and let your eyes guide you. Day passes for the Dallas Art Fair start at $34 and the Dallas Invitational is free. 

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Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd taking in the Dallas Art Fair with artist Tom Anholt. Daniel Driensky

Here are a few of my highlights from the opening day of the fair. 

I bookended the long day with a visit to the reliably strong showing from one of Dallas’ longest-running galleries. Conduit has participated in all but one of the 16 editions of the fair. This year they’ve brought a sampling of their artist roster. Look for a sculpture by Anthony Sonnenberg and a painting by Vincent Falsetta. Gallery owner Nancy Whitenack was in particularly good spirits by the end of the day. Gallerists are trapped in their booths for the entirety of the day, but she said the flow of traffic had been strong. There were already red dots speckling the walls of her space by the time the desserts made their way through the halls. 

Cris Worley Fine Arts

Wind your way through the downstairs options to find Cris Worley occupying her booth’s annual location. It’s likely she’ll encourage—or in my case, demand—you come in to look at the art. This sounds like an obvious thing to do, but my estimations are that if you go into every gallery’s booth, you will see more than 1,000 works of art in one day. But you should trust Worley. Had I not entered, I would’ve missed the thick ridges of oil paint on Robert Sagerman’s piece or the impressive detail of Erick Swenson’s cephalopod sculpture.  While you’re on that side of the fair, pop into the vestibule to see Zeke William’s largest painting to date, along with a triptych by one of Dallas’ most creative artists, Celia Eberle.

VETA by Fer Francés

Last year, the Dallas Contemporary held two concurrent ceramics shows, a rare choice for a museum. One of those exhibitions was the work of Guadalajara-based artist Eduardo Sarabia, which is why some of the work on display at VETA might look familiar. This booth also had some of my favorite paintings in the fair: a series by Spanish artist Abraham Lacalle that plays with vivid color and light, incorporating nuanced elements of art history. 

Keijsers Koning

Upstairs, Bart Keijsers-Koning walks visitors through his booth, which is filled with bright, colorful work. There is a large painting from a new series by Dallas native Kate Barbee, an up-and-coming painter making mixed media figurative work. In one of her paintings on display here, she has stitched an assemblage of patterns into the canvas, referencing patches you might find on a worn denim jacket. Bart is particularly excited about Michelle Cortez Gonzales, an artist he found just a few weeks ago. He’d been on a mission to find a strong female, Latinx artistic voice with roots in Texas. His search appears to have paid off. Her work is striking and intimate. 

In keeping with the current obsession with Monday’s Total Solar Eclipse, this Amsterdam gallery dedicated its entire booth to the work of conceptual artist Ashley Zelinskie. She worked with NASA technology for eight years to create a series of three-dimensional printed sculptures and one mesmerizing hologram inspired by the path of totality. Visitors to the booth can also scoop a pair of limited edition eclipse glasses. 

The Valley 

One of the best things about an art fair is when a gallery you’ve admired from afar comes to you. I’ve been following The Valley in Taos, New Mexico for a few years now but have only had the chance to see them in Dallas. This is the gallery’s third year at the fair and they’ve brought with them three New Mexico-based artists, Will Bruno, Sarah M. Rodriguez and Tyrell Tapaha, along with New York-based Sophia Heymans. 

Speaking of the fair bringing galleries to you, this year’s fair is delightfully international. Kerlin Gallery arrives from Dublin, Ireland. It’s where you’ll find the huge, mesmerizing textile piece by Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, which is now in the DMA collection. But make sure to explore the whole space to find a small piece by San Antonio artist Daniel Rios Rodriguez, who has shown with the gallery for several years. 

Meanwhile at the Fairmont Hotel…

Last year, gallerist James Cope launched the Dallas Invitational, a satellite fair that relies on the pull of the larger fair, but offers a pared-down experience. It takes place inside hotel rooms on the 17th floor, which can be a little complicated to get to, so look for someone eclectic and follow them to the northern elevator bank. Each participating gallery decided what furniture to keep, which is why you’ll see a Richard Smith painting leaning against a couch in the Vardaxoglou Gallery space but no furniture at all below the Sophia Anthony painting in the Various Small Fires space. 

It’s no surprise that the gallery behind the entire endeavor would make good use of its hotel room. You’ll find work by painter Michelle Rawlings—whose father, Mike, was the mayor with the vision for Dallas Arts Month—delicately balanced on a ledge that runs along the wall of the room. Elsewhere, there is work by Dallas-based artists Krissy Bodge and Leslie Martinez. 

All the galleries had to get a little creative with artistic display, as they weren’t able to drill into the hotel walls. Los Angeles’ Night Gallery is the only one I saw using the toilets. Rachel Youn’s animated sculptures feature dancing orchids powered by a small motor that jolts the flowers through in an amusing rhythm. 

The Dallas Art Fair runs through April 7 at the Fashion Industry Gallery, 1807 Ross Ave. The Dallas Invitational is also through April 7 on the 17th floor of the Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N. Akard St. 

Author

Lauren Smart

Lauren Smart

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