Dallas Art Fair expansion reflects Dallas’s growing art market

When speaking to art dealers about Dallas, the refrain is that Dallas buyers can’t be rushed into making purchases like collectors on the coasts, true to the idea that Texas and the American South move at a slower pace than the rest of the country.

“They like to take a little bit more time. In Los Angeles at Frieze, you’re sort of closing deals on the spot. In Dallas, people are more likely to ask for some more information to be sent to them. They want to sort of ruminate and do some research. It’s a little bit of a slower burn,” says Adrian Zuñiga, the director of Various Small Fires’s Dallas outpost, which opened in 2022.

That’s not to say Dallas is a sleepy, regional art market. The 16th edition of the Dallas Art Fair (4-7 April) will bring in 91 galleries to downtown Dallas, up from 88 last year. The number is beginning to approach the typical number of participating spaces just before the Covid-19 pandemic, when the fair would feature nearly 100 exhibitors. And Dallas is home to a number of serious, world-class art collectors.

Local galleries returning to the Dallas Art Fair this year include 12.26, Erin Cluley Gallery, Conduit Gallery, Cris Worley Fine Arts, Galleri Urbane, Keijsers Koning, Sputnik Modern and Valley House Gallery and Sculpture. Dallas galleries Tureen and Pencil on Paper will mark their first years taking part in the fair. Anat Ebgi, Patel Brown, Perrotin, Sulamit Nazarian and The Hole will also participate.

Austin gallery Martha’s is returning to the fair and doubling-down on its Texas-based artists. Owner and director Ricky Morales says the gallery will fill its stand with works by Conner O’Leary and RF. Alvarez, both based in Austin.

“Dallas is a really interesting city and fair because it’s a lot more laid back,” says Morales. “Those Miami and New York fairs are really intense, and there’s a lot of other fairs kind of going around at the same time. There’s the Dallas Invitational now, but it’s just across the street. I think the Dallas Art Fair kind of stands on its own. It’s a much more laid-back, Texas kind of fair.”

The Partner (2024) by RF. Alvarez Courtesy Martha’s

The Dallas Invitational (4-6 April), which was launched last year by James Cope, the owner of Dallas gallery And Now, is also gaining traction. It’s being held at the the Fairmont Hotel across the street from Dallas’s Fashion Industry Gallery, the venue that hosts the Dallas Art Fair, during the same week. Dallas’s ability to accommodate two separate fairs is evidence of the growing importance of the city’s art market, according to art advisor Adam Green, who splits his time between Dallas and New York.

“Dallas is one of the few art scenes to have two fairs occurring simultaneously,” Green said. “It’s the result of a lot of demand from galleries wanting to get their foot in the door of the Dallas art scene. It’s also a testament to just the growing collector base here and the fair serving as a good time for galleries to check in with existing clients and expose their artists to the community.”

The 14 galleries taking part in the Dallas invitational include Various Small Fires, James Fuentes, Hannah Hoffman, Lomex and Night Gallery. Various Small Fires previously took part in the Dallas Art Fair for several years before opting to switch to the invitational.

“I don’t really see it as a sort of competition,” says Zuñiga, the gallery’s director in Dallas. “It’s just more just like a reflection of Dallas’s growing market importance.” He adds that the smaller scale of the Invitational was a significant factor in the gallery’s decision.

“We found that we might be able to have some more intimate conversations. It’s a much smaller scale,” Zuñiga said. “More people are starting to pick up on it, and the quality of the galleries that are there are in line with our approach and with our programming. We also had a busy season of fairs, so the scale of it really worked as well in terms of our overall programming.”

This year’s Dallas fairs back up to the Great American Eclipse on 8 April, the last total solar eclipse to be visible in the contiguous US until 2044. Dallas is the largest city in the eclipse’s path of totality, where the full scope of the eclipse can be seen. The city said it projects a 35% bump in the number of visitors during the week of the eclipse, which some Texas dealers say they hope will translate into extra foot traffic for art events in the area, though it has caused flights, rental car and hotel prices in the area to soar.

Dallas Art Fair, 4-7 April, Fashion Industry Gallery, Dallas
Dallas Invitational, 4-6 April, Fairmont Hotel, Dallas

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