Dallas Art Scene: Big Oil, Big Hair and Higher Heels

Cowboys, oil, football and a TV series – that's what Dallas is famous for. But what about the city's art scene? Before moving to Berlin to open his new space Pushkin & Gogol, Texas local Kevin Rubén Jacobs reported on the recent past and present of an unjustly overlooked corner of the art world. 

 

“A House Divided” (the season 3 finale of Dallas) brought about a cliffhanger for the ages: Who shot J.R.?! I still have no idea, but almost everyone I meet internationally is quick to light up and reminisce about the 1979–91 TV series. It represented a city fraught with hubris, wealth, power and larger-than-life personalities. Dallas has been living a real-life cliffhanger of sorts for years, questioning if the art scene will ever be as big as the city’s oversize personality? Of course, Dallas is big oil, big hair and higher heels, but it’s also a city with space, affordability (for now), nice people, and possibilities. Dallas is a peripheral art city that allows artists to work unencumbered, but paired with Dallas’ own insecurity and conservativeness it suffers a Sisyphean fate. Luckily, there are some things happening in the city that can foster a promising future. 

As home to some of the most important private art collections in the world (Howard Rachofsky, Deedie and Rusty Rose, Marguerite Hoffman, the Karpidas Collection), Dallas has many special spaces where the general public can experience and live with art. This allows for potentially higher visual literacy that could be quite unlike any other city in the country.

 

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Built in 1965 by Dallas developer Raymond Nasher, NorthPark Center eschews walkway kiosks in favor of sculptures by Sterling Ruby, Roy Lichtenstein and Sarah Brahman. Works by Huma Bhabha, Frank Stella and Liam Gillick are sprinkled between Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores. Green House Market, an almost hidden gem at NorthPark Center, pairs delicious farm-to-table fare with contemporary paintings and sculptures by Darren Bader, Margaret Lee and Katherine Bernhardt. 

Thinking about attending a home game of the world’s most valuable sports team? You could easily miss the Dallas Cowboys in action while wandering about the $1.3 billion AT&T Stadium. Site-specific works by Daniel Buren, Jenny Holzer, Mel Bochner and Anish Kapoor, among a slew of other major artists, occupy the landmark stadium among super bowl trophies, Cowboys ephemera and high-end food stands. 

One of the most successful and democratic art events is AURORA: light, video and sound biennial. It has brought in over 130,000 attendees since 2010. This major event takes over the 68 acre Dallas Arts District utilizing buildings by I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano and Rem Koolhaas. With programming directed by Berlin Art Link co-founder Monica Salazar, the 2018 edition will feature curators Doo Eun Choi, Nadim Samman, and Dallas Contemporary’s own Justine Ludwig. 

 

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Easily the most important art event in town, the Dallas Art Fair grants artists one week to schmooze with international gallerists, curators, collectors and writers. Although some art writers have misinterpreted the scene due to the extravagance, flair and showboating that surrounds the fair, there’s a general consensus that something good is brewing and building on the successes of the year prior.

 

"With glitz, glamour, model poses and champagne flowing, Dallas socialites thrive in front of the cameras, waiting to see their photos in the society pages"

 

Surrounding the fair are major institution/museum openings at The Goss-Michael FoundationThe Power-StationDallas Contemporary and the Nasher Sculpture Center and two benefit galas: MTV RE:DEFINE and the Dallas Museum of Art’s ART BALL. Along with the VIP opening of the fair, this is where you see Dallas for what it is. With glitz, glamour, model poses and champagne flowing, Dallas socialites thrive in front of the cameras, waiting to see their photos in the society pages. The desire for the limelight is at high point.

 

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To really appreciate the current state of the Dallas art scene, it is important to look at the recent past. As a gallerist/curator myself, I admired galleries from the late 00s like Road Agent, directed by Christina Rees whose program included Dan Perfect and Julian Opie, and Paul Slocum and Lauren Gray’s and/or Gallery, which mounted exhibitions by Petra Cortright, JODI and Cory Arcangel, has reopened in Pasadena, CA, after an almost decade-long hiatus . After their closures, both in 2009, there was a huge void to fill as the scene resorted to provincial navel-gazing.

Shameless plug + full disclosure: I ran OFG.XXX (formerly Oliver Francis Gallery) from 2011 to 2017 and had the privilege of working with Jeff Zilm, Rachel de Joode, Kristin Oppenheim and Puppies Puppies among other amazing artists from Dallas and beyond. I opened the gallery while still an undergrad, and having recently started a full-time position at the Goss-Michael Foundation. It was a new frontier. The opening of the gallery coincided with an incredible outburst of collective energy in the city, with artist-run spaces and initiatives utilizing various empty spaces throughout the city. The most notable such projects of this time include: Semigloss. magazine, a quarterly exhibition in print format created by Sally Glass; Studio DTFU (Don’t Fuck This Up) organized by artists Lucy Kirkman Allen and Justin Hunter Allen; Wanda Dye’s RE: Gallery; ephemeral AF projects Apophenia Underground + Deep Ellum Windows co-directed by Justin Ginsberg and Jeff Gibbons; Fort Worth Drawing Center staged in the studio entry of Francisco Moreno; and Arthur Peña’s WARE:WOLF:HAUS that provided the city with an eclectic mix of exhibitions and intense music events. The years 2012–2016 framed an epoch of Dallas’ recent history where there was a critical mass of a creative force that could have blossomed had there sincere support.

 

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Since this era, some new lively spaces have emerged including: PRP, a small room in a derelict West Dallas house-turned artist studio compound surrounded by warehouses and dirt roads. Directed by self-described “post-lol” artist Pierre Krause and former curator/director of the Goss-Michael Foundation and artist Michael Mazurek, PRP recently presented a solo show by Jake Elliot called SlipKnot MoMA, colliding social classes and hierarchies of contemporary visual languages. (Elliot and Krause co-directed Nelly Furtado’s most recent music video “Pipe Dreams” and operate After Deth Productions). Can you imagine their hat closets? The Box Co., directed by Jason Koen in his grandfather’s former industrial box manufacturing warehouse, was site to Dallas Biennial’s presentation of Teresa Margolles and Hermann Nitsch. Directed by artists Michael Mazurek and Jesse Morgan Barnett, the Dallas Biennial (est. 2012) is a freeform, non-standard biennial model that started with modest means and has developed into a powerhouse of the most audacious and ambitious projects. Safe Room at the Texas Theatre curated by Mylan Nguyen and Taro Waggoner, presents exhibitions in the historic Texas Theatre, where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. One of the most thoughtful spaces and unassuming spaces is The Reading Room directed by Karen Weiner, In this tiny ivy-covered Fair Park space, Wiener has presented conceptual exhibitions and programming that include a collaborative musical by Arthur Peña and poetry readings by Kenneth Goldsmith.

 

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On the more commercial end of the gallery scene is Circuit 12, ran by Dustin Orlando, with recent exhibitions including Paul Anthony Smith, Amber Renaye and Nick van Woert. Stalwart galleries including Barry Whistler GalleryTalley Dunn and Conduit have staked claim in Dallas for the past two to three decades. Rounding out a more international focus to the gallery scene in Dallas are galerie frank elbaz, and And Now. After several successful years exhibiting at the Dallas Art Fair and a possible propensity for incredible BBQ, Elbaz has brought an A-list roster to Dallas including Blair Thurman, Kaz Oshiro and Mungo Thompson. Directed by former Goss-Michael Foundation associate curator James Cope, And Now (not to be confused with And/Or) has presented exhibitions by Dustin Peavy, Noah Barker and Dallas-based Michelle Rawlings. 

 

"There is a combination of creative, entrepreneurial spirit alive with possibility and mega-wealth ready to do ‘good‘"

 

There is a combination of creative/entrepreneurial spirit alive with possibility and mega-wealth ready to do “good” for its community that dances together without ever touching limbs. Like two bashful lovers, their impending touch will spark and a new city will form. Until then, we will take it easy as we always have been, sipping sweet tea on a porch and watching the most beautiful sunsets, day after day, night after night. 

 

KEVIN RUBÉN JACOBS is a curator and founder of  OFG.XXX in Dallas. He recently moved to Berlin where he opened Pushkin & Gogol.

More one the Dallas art scene: Read an interview with Dallas Contemporary curator Justine Ludwig and gallerist Frank Elbaz.

 

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Links

 

AND NOW
2025 Irving Blvd Suite 201
Dallas, TX 75207
Website

 

AT&T Stadium
1 AT&T Way
Arlington, TX 76011
Art Collection

 

Barry Whistler Gallery
Suite 120, 315 Cole Street
Dallas, Texas 75207
Website

 

The Box Company
2425 Myrtle St
Dallas, TX 75215
Website

 

Circuit 12
1811 E Levee St
Dallas, TX 75207
Website

 

Conduit Gallery
1626 C Hi Line Dr.
Dallas, TX 75207
Website

 

Dallas Biennial
Website

 

Dallas Contemporary
161 Glass St,
Dallas, TX 75207
Website

 

Dallas Museum of Art – Art Ball
Website

 

galerie frank elbaz
136 Glass Street
Dallas, TX 75207
Website

 

The Goss-Michael Foundation
1305 Wycliff Ave #120
Dallas, TX 75207
Website

 

MTV RE:DEFINE
Website

 

Nasher Sculpture Center
2001 Flora St,
Dallas, TX 75201
Website

 

NorthPark Center
8687 N Central Expy
Dallas, TX 75225
Art Collection

 

The Power Station
3816 Commerce St
Dallas, TX 75226
Website

 

PRP
508 Fabrication St.
Dallas, TX 75212
Website

 

The Reading Room
3715 Parry Ave
 Dallas, TX 75226
Website

 

The Saferoom Gallery
231 W Jefferson Blvd
Dallas, TX 75208
Website

 

Talley Dunn Gallery
5020 Tracy St 
Dallas, TX 75205
Website

 

The Warehouse
14105 Inwood Road (between Alpha and Spring Valley)
Dallas, TX 75244
Website