Random thoughts from the Dallas Art Fair:
1. A lot of TX dealers got through the 80’s, when things were terrible here and booming everywhere else, by selling outside of TX. In those days, NYC saved their skins. Today, the opposite is true: as one art fair dealer put it, "Texas is the last stand in the economy right now, and all of a sudden it’s *really* easy to deal with New York or LA galleries…"
2. The fair organizers have made a hell of an effort to promote this
thing, and there was a definite buzz around the fair yesterday. A lot
of the bodies were groups brought in from the musuems, but there was
not the palpable desperation and empty hallways that some might have
dreaded. I would go so far as to call the atmosphere somewhat cheerful.
3. That said, I haven’t heard about any big sales at the fair as of end of day Friday. A handful of smaller things; lots of "something will come from this in a few months" talk. Most of the dealers haven’t sold anything.
4. Apparently it’s been tough for the local Dallas galleries — perhaps even tougher than it has for Houston spaces. Universally, the Dallas galleries (who are a more relaxed and tight-knit group than their Houston counterparts) are saying the past six months have been a very rough ride. Admittedly, this is not as bad as New York, where it’s been absolutely dire. But one Dallas dealer predicted that not all the galleries here will make it through the current downturn/recession/whatever.
5. Back at the fair, those dealers have been taken around to the big brand-name Dallas collections. "The problem," as one non-Dallas dealer recounted to me, "is that eight of the nine collections we’ve seen use the same consultant [Allan Schwartzman], and these are like museums, and it’s all completely over-the-top. It’s nice to see the collections, but we’re interested in the people in Dallas who buy art locally, in the 4 or 5 figure range…" And as of now, those people aren’t buying.