Arts & Culture News

Dallas Art Fair Offers a Streamlined Intro to Contemporary Art

This weekend the Dallas Art Fair returns for its seventh year, with more than 90 exhibitions of contemporary art taking over the fair's usual venue, the Fashion Industry Gallery in the Arts District. Galleries from locales as distant as Europe and China will be represented, but there are also nine Dallas galleries in the mix, including newcomer Zhulong Gallery. The fair itself runs Friday through Sunday, but related arts programming begins Wednesday night, when the Dallas Museum of Art will premiere a work by performance artist Ei Arakawa and The Power Station and Dallas Contemporary will celebrate exhibition openings.

Dallas Art Fair was founded by real-estate developer John Sughrue and gallerist Chris Byrne, who sought to create the kind of fair they would most like to attend. "It's kind of like how Picasso once said, 'If someone was making the paintings already I wouldn't have to make them,'" Byrne says. Mainly, they hoped their fair would be streamlined and cohesive, while also delivering on quality. "Some of the fairs at the time we started had gotten very big. They were difficult to manage," he says. "Our schedule of events is still a linear thing. It would be a long week but you could do everything."

Byrne, who is in charge of assembling the galleries, has always focused on ones connected to collectors and institutions in Dallas. In their first year 35 galleries exhibited, a number that has swelled each year as past exhibitors refer them to new ones, lending the fair the intimate, cohesive feel they were after. "We've never had an application [to participate] or anything," Byrne says. "The galleries that have participated in the past are the election committee. Which I think has made the atmosphere."

The involvement of galleries from across the country and even the world demonstrates the growing interest in Dallas as a city for art. When asked how the Dallas galleries fit into the picture, he's hesitant to consider them as a separate entity, since he feels the work they show is of equal caliber. "The work is international and should be seen in that context," he says. Among the Dallas galleries exhibiting this year are Ro2 Art, Barry Whistler Gallery, Kirk Hopper Fine Art, Conduit Gallery and Zhulong Gallery.

Zhulong is the sole newcomer in that group, although Aja Martin, director of Zhulong, is not new to Dallas Art Fair. She's been attending for years, and says that when Byrne visited Zhulong shortly after it opened, the decision to join was easy. "I think the Dallas Art Fair is very special," she says. "The organizers do so well folding in the institutions and the population with the programming that they do."

Zhulong Gallery's exhibit will focus on the relationship between art and technology -- specifically the notion of the "anachronistic texture of the present," or the way the present is affected by the past and the future. The works will include video, projections and even new printing techniques like ultra-violet ink cured directly onto metal. Martin adds that because technology can be integrated with many different forms of art, and their price range will be wide, they expect to have something for everyone.

She's excited to show the visiting galleries and collectors what the Dallas art scene has to offer, and also to introduce Zhulong to plenty of Dallasites. "I'm proud to show the artists that we work with and our edge toward programming. [The fair is] one more rung on the ladder for the ascension that Dallas is taking," Martin says. "I also wanted to make a really huge impact cause this is our introduction to Dallas for many people."

Byrne emphasizes that the fair will appeal to everyone from the beginning art student to the seasoned collector. "[People think] contemporary art [is] difficult and not so accessible ... art fairs in general are sort of the antithesis of that," Byrne says. He attributes that accessibility to the presence of the gallery owners and many of the artists, who will be available to discuss the work with visitors.

As for the surrounding programming, which will take place at various art institutions around Dallas, Byrne says some of the events he's most looking forward to include the Jos De Gruyter and Harald Thys exhibit at The Power Station and the David Salle and Nate Lowman exhibit at Dallas Contemporary, both opening on Wednesday; MTV RE:DEFINE at Goss-Michael on Friday evening; and Saturday's Art Ball at the Dallas Museum of Art. On Thursday, Dallas Art Fair will once again host a preview gala benefiting the DMA, Nasher Sculpture Center and Dallas Contemporary. "I'm really honored [to work with those institutions] and I think it says something about the city, that it works together and it's collaborative," he says.

Once this week has passed, Byrne and John Sughrue will wipe the slate clean and begin the yearlong endeavor of organizing the 2016 Dallas Art Fair, but that doesn't mean a halt to their involvement in arts programming. They organize events at collectors' homes and galleries throughout the year. "I like to think of Dallas Art Fair as more than a four-day event," Byrne says. "What's happening there extends beyond -- the projects that come out of it go through the year."

Dallas Art Fair is located in the Fashion Industry Gallery at 1807 Ross Ave.; fair hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Sunday; tickets start at $25 for a one-day pass; to purchase tickets and find a list of participating galleries and a full schedule of events, visit