Whites Only: Diversity and the Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas

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Last Thursday, I attended a dinner at the Nasher Sculpture Center that featured conversations around artist Lauren Woods sculpture/installation A Dallas Drinking Fountain Project at the Dallas County Records Building. Woods’ work consists of a functioning water fountain underneath the remnants of a Jim Crow era “White Only” sign. The fountain plays a 45-second video of civil rights era footage whenever someone drinks. Woods talked about her work with curator Anna Smith, and then each table discussed themes in her work ranging from race to social practice over a family-style dinner.

After dinner, Smith asked some of the tables to share what they had talked about, and one group—led by Sara Mokuria, senior research associate at UTD’s  Institute of Urban Policy Research—declared that they felt that the Dallas Arts District was a “White Only” sign. There was general head nodding and affirmation from the minorities in the room, and questions about “how can we fix this” from the older white participants.

Mokuria responded that it would take a radical reimagining of the arts district and wondered what would happen if a tenant like the Black Dance Theater received as much support and attention as the Winspear Opera House? Vicki Meek pointed to the makeup of the staffs of our area museums as a reason why the Arts District might have a metaphorical “White Only” sign. As is often the case, time ran out before any meaningful discussion of these points could be had.

However, the conversation did cause me to think about diversity in the contemporary art scene in Dallas, and I thought it might be helpful to try to add some facts to the dialogue.

One of the most valuable opportunities for an artist is the chance to exhibit a body of work in an established and reputable gallery space. I decided to look at the past 15 months of exhibition history of galleries that are part of The Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas in order to see how diverse this prestigious group of galleries is when it comes to the artists they choose to exhibit.

The Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas (CADD) is an invitation-only nonprofit membership group of thirteen of the leading galleries in Dallas: Circuit 12, Conduit, Craighead Green, Cris Worley, Cohn Drennan, Galleri Urbane, Holly Johnson, Kirk Hopper, Photos Do Not Bend, RO2 Art, Public Trust, Valley House and 500X. Part of their stated mission is “to be the means by which artists reach the public and collectors gains access to art.”

I used the CADD website, individual gallery websites, Glasstire, artist websites, and Google Images as resources in assembling my analysis. I chose this group specifically because its activities are well documented.

CADD4

From January 2013 to March 2014, there were 189 opportunities for artists to show a body of work in a CADD gallery. For the purpose of this analysis, group shows are excluded from the data set. I had the pleasure of attending around 70% of these exhibitions. Out of the 189 shows, 93 of these opportunities were given to white males, 71 were given to women (regardless of race), 19 were given to Latino/Hispanics, 9 were given to other minorities, and 4 were given to people of African descent.

To put it in terms of percentages: 50% of shows went to white guys, 38% of shows went to females, and 15% went to racial minorities. Only 2% of shows during this time period went to black people. In terms of overall diversity, Conduit leads the way, with Kirk Hopper and RO2 a close second.

The good news: women fared better than I expected, especially when compared to representation percentages at museums. Although, the 38% number is either a glass half full or half empty depending on your perspective, it isn’t abysmal. In fact, Craighead Green, Cris Worley, and Cohn Drennan all gave more of their solo shows to women than to men during this period.

It still isn’t bad to be a white male artist in the Dallas contemporary art scene, though. Every other opportunity in the last fifteen months went to that group. It was, however, horrible to be a Hispanic artist, with only 10% of opportunities going to this group. Given the population percentages in our areas, this number is even more indefensible. And one has to look no further than the current Hecho En Dallas show at the Latino Cultural Center to see that the talent pool exists to do better.

Finally, it was abysmal to be a black artist in Dallas over the last fifteen months, with only four shows going to this group. For a city the size of Dallas, four shows out 188 is embarrassing. Without Conduit, Kirk Hopper, Valley House, and RO2, which each hosted one show by a black artist, it could have been even worse.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently concluded that Dallas’ affordable housing practices violate civil rights laws. It is 2014 and Dallas is being accused by the federal government of segregation. As much as our creative community enjoys considering itself as progressive, the numbers suggest that we are more segregated than the city as a whole.

In CADD shows, it is definitely “White Only.” Anyone who claims to value diversity should be embarrassed to be associated with an arts community that looks like this. It’s not just CADD, whose public visibility makes statistics easy to compile; it’s the entire contemporary arts community in Dallas. I will have some new numbers for you in a couple weeks. The great court philosopher Rasheed Wallace said it best: “Ball don’t lie.”

 

The Data

500X circuit12

coh drennan

conduit

craighead green

cris worley

galleri urbane

holly johnson

kirk hopper

pdnb

public trust2

ro2c

valley house

also by Darryl Ratcliff

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47 responses to “Whites Only: Diversity and the Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas”

  1. I enjoy seeing all of the compiled data. In my opinion, gays should be a category as well. There are so many factors that affect this that are not even mentioned.

  2. Thanks to Darryl and Hampton.

  3. We constantly demand that our free market system be merit based and socially just even though, by nature, it isn’t.
    It seems that only yesterday we were asking where are the collectors and supporters of art in Dallas?
    Now we must ask where are the collectors and supporters of minority art in Dallas?

    1. Good point Celia. The “free market” aspect is important too — I think this is a different conversation when you’re talking about museums than it is when you’re talking about private for-profit businesses like art galleries, even though the line has gotten blurred in recent years. I would argue that, if you want to assign responsibility to an entity for promoting equality in the art world (beyond artists themselves, who regardless of ethnicity, gender, orientation etc, have a bad habit of looking to parental institutions to take care of them), that responsibility lies more heavily with non-profits than it does with dealers.

  4. Estoy orgullosa de representar a la población hispana.

  5. Is there more data on these topics outside of Dallas/CADD? I guess I am thinking national statistics on the percentage of minorities who are artists or how many minorities have an arts education. It would be interesting to see those percentages as a base from which to contextualize this local conversation.

  6. If you are going to postulate a critical argument against private sector businesses based on sophist “statistics”, expect scrutiny. While I’m flattered to be nominated by Darryl as a representative of the androgynous hispanic population, I don’t identify as such, nor do I suspect people of hispanic background (androgynous or otherwise) would classify a euro-ethnic male as hispanic.

    If you really want to get into a discussion of gender and race, I wonder: do all female artists included in this list lack ethnicity? Do they all identify as female or do they just have the parts? I’m pretty sure that blacks, hispanics and “others” generally have sex organs as well. AND WHERE THE HELL ARE THE ELEPHANTIDAE REPRESENTATIVES?!?!

    Come to think of it, perhaps we should be ashamed of what products these businesses are selling as well. I don’t see an equal distribution of institutional critique, social practice, site-specific installation or video art represented in for-profit galleries. For some reason the market is dominated by painting and sculpture. Let’s point our fingers at that, too!

    Yes, we all know that race, gender and sexuality are hot topics in the art world. Yes, they are important issues that deserve to be addressed. Yes, all groups deserve equal representation. Yes, the art world has a history of favoring white male artists. It might be more productive to confront the institutions holding the power to deem art’s cultural value (i.e. museums, publications), which in turn effects market value, as opposed to attacking struggling and PRIVATE businesses. If you’re really that outraged and ashamed, get out there and do something positive about it rather than compiling the “new numbers”. Start a gallery and represent the demographics that need it. Remember!!! ALWAYS tell the client that it will look GREAT above their couch.

    1. Snowflake. Avalanche. Got it.

    2. I wondered about the ethnicity of female artists in this somewhat confusing spreadsheet, but the explanation is simple, I think. If a woman artist is non-white, she is counted twice–that’s why if you add up all the percentages at the bottom of the chart, they add up to more than 100%.

      I find this confusing, and I would have done it differently (two charts, one for male/female and one for racial breakdowns).

      In any case,any project like this is fraught with the fact that the researcher has to make assumptions about people’s racial identities; assumptions that might not match up with the way the artist in question identifies herself. That is a legitimate criticism of a project like this. But while this project is flawed,I don’t think the flaws are fatal. I found it very illuminating.

  7. I’m black, mentally. Sometimes. I’ve even marched with the NAACP, The Black Panthers and Louis Farrakhans representatives.
    I also don’t know Spanish fluently. I was actually raised with racist Caucasian people. I was even chased by fully outfitted KKK members I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

  8. I’m not sure whether to say “Yay, Go white males!” or to be ashamed of being a white male and kill myself. But whatever the score is, someone should point out at that one of the best artists who shows in Dallas is Trenton Doyle Hancock and he is not even on any of these lists.

  9. Zis iz how I feel about ze basketball! Vy don’t zey make ze basketball more eznically diverze!! Ze black people are only maybe about 20% of the ze world populazion and are overreprezented in ze NBA but ze chinese are reproduczing like ze wild gezuntersleet yet vy aren’t zer more azians in ze NBA?

    Unt ven vas ze last time you zaw an inuit playing forvard? Ze makeup of ze basketball team zhould be determined by race unt by zexual orientation!

    Or, maybe it could be determined by ze color of zer hair? Maybe ve culd have one ginger per basketball team, und a requirement for at least 3 blond men per team!

    Unt vat about ze midgets!!! Ze midgets are horribly underreprezented in ze NBA! Vy don’t zey make zome of ze black people who are overreprezented go into ze art vurld unt zen zey could make ze midgets go into ze basketball unt zen zey can make ze vhite artists become midgets! Problem zolved.

  10. Thanks for writing this, Darryl. The variety of responses shows it’s a wound we all feel and sometimes you have to pour some painful disinfectant on it for it to heal.

    A similar, and maybe helpful, conversation was started by Colette Copeland in her recent article on women in film. An important question that was raised: does having venues that are created for the purpose of showcasing one particular part of the community that is underrepresented help balance this deeply embedded, systematic problem or does it reinforce the existing divisions? Vicki Meek, in posts elsewhere and at one of the earlier CentralTrak panels, pointed out the symptom that many members of the art community (meaning those of us who are white) don’t make it down to the openings at SDCC (I’m among the guilty, here.) I may be poking a hornet’s nest here and I admit I’m newer to this conversation which I know is not a new one, but might it be worth asking what can be done to wrap any separate communities into the one you’ve put a microscope on? Or is this even desirable? I realize that SDCC and many other institutions like it are part of DADA, and a structure like this I probably part of the solution, but can this go further?

  11. This article reminds me of this video. I’M BLACK YALL!!!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZHwGnGrm_k

  12. Would be interesting to see attendance and sales info broken down by gender and race.

  13. An important missing factor is who is interested in participating in the Museum/Gallery tradition of the Western art world?
    It was originally a European tradition formed by white males, so it makes a certain amount of sense that they are the most active participants.
    Of course in America there are thankfully artists of all backgrounds producing great work, and thankfully many people beyond white males are interested in participating and enriching the situation.
    On some level it is still a bit like taking the Scottish Games to task on the same issue.
    We shouldn’t be so arrogant to think that our tradition is the best or only way. Many people of these missing cultural backgrounds use whole other systems for making and presenting work.

    Obviously, racism, sexism & homophobia are still huge problems in ANY field in America, I still don’t think this is the place to fight this battle.
    I think we would be better served by looking at who is actively producing great work and are not being represented and changing that rather than pointing out something fairly obvious like this.

  14. Tom, that would be interesting, but what is the point? More interesting to me would be: What are the gallery owners’ genders and ethnicities? who are their clients? How many of their artists are showing outside of Dallas (especially in museum collections)? Who are their friends (clients)? What are the dealers and their artists making (financially) per hour? Even still, I would ask: Why does anyone care? These are businesses doing what they can to stay afloat while striving to make a positive impact on culture. My issue with this article is not the topic, but rather the laziness with which it was composed, the tabloid-like agenda, and the fact that the author made assumptions rather than doing research or offering resolutions.

    I would ask: Who are the patrons with museum influence? What are they buying? Who are they purchasing from? I guarantee you will find that Dallas artists (for the most part) aren’t even on their radar (white or otherwise), or if they are, the work is acquired from New York, L.A., and European galleries.

    I’m not criticizing, but rather relaying that whether or not “our creative community enjoys considering itself as progressive”, this is not a view shared by the rest of the world and the issue is far more systemic and complicated than this article makes it out to be. The Dallas Contemporary, which thankfully does not incorporate the word art in it’s name, throws a bitchin’ Hollywood-esque party, while managing to show trendy fashion and graffiti (occasionally managing to incorporate fine art). This is THE premier non-profit, non-museum space in Dallas and every person I’ve had a conversation with from outside of Dallas has ridiculed it as a poor excuse for the most gimmicky and shallow of L.A. art affiliates. That is an insult.

    If the discussion is about diversity, specifically within a contemporary context, then Chinese artists should definitely not have been lumped into “other” and queer artists should have at least received a mention. China has a thriving artist community. Heck, China is on the rise to becoming the most financially invested country in the art market. How many Chinese artists can you name?

    All of my ranting aside, I would like to clarify that the article addresses profound issues, but in ways that do a disservice to the author’s (presumed) intent. For-profit galleries should not have been attacked without positioning a larger context. Research should have been thoroughly examined and executed. The title…*sigh* if you really think the issue is as simple as the title of your article implies that you do, then who do you assume is reading it and do you really think that this “whites only” audience is going to engage in change as a response to it?

  15. Guilty. Glad to make the list.

  16. Who is included in the “other” column? I find this a little dismissive and insulting. Also I know of one mistake on an artists ethnicity only because I know him personally- Billy Zinser is Hispanic but counted as white. Was the categorization based on assumptions and not fact?

    1. This can be explained by the term “white hispanic.” I am only basing this on a quick google image search of Billy, but he would be counted as white because racially, he is white, but ethnically, he is hispanic. If he were, say, from a country in Latin America where African descent is more prominent (Haiti, Cuba, etc) and if he was dark-skinned – then he could be considered a “black hispanic.”

  17. Dear Darryl,
    I represent many artists, I never look at race,religion or sexuality, as to who or why I represent them, Its the art I see, I look at all art submitted to me to me but just the art, but if asked to look at it here goes:
    My stable of 27 artists ( you were a bit off) I have 14 females, 8 white males, 1 black, 4 Asians
    All of the above, some are gay, straight, Jewish, Christian,catholic , non religious.
    thanks for an interesting conversation.
    Best ree

  18. Sorry for typos people, yes I see them :)

  19. This author seems to think that anything with a white majority constitutes a moral failure.

    1. I don’t know about that, but I do get the idea that he thinks 2% black artists is a disgrace. And I agree.

      1. Zat is igzactly vat I vas zaying about ze NBA! Vy don’t zey have more of ze midgets unt der eskimos? Razism, zat’s vy!

      2. What would be your recommended acceptable percentage of black artists represented at CADD galleries?

        The USA is about 13% black (US Census).
        Texas is about 12% black (US Census).
        Dallas is about 22% black (again, US Census).

        1. Any of those numbers would be a vast improvement.

          1. Why? Why do you think that would be an “improvement”?

          2. Please explain exactly what you feel are the benefits of increased numbers of African-Americans in the art world. What exactly is “vastly improved”?

            Given the limited number of spaces and opportunities for being represented by a gallery such as the CADD galleries, this essentially proves once again that “diversity” is just a euphemism meaning “less whites”.

          3. Wow, you’re insistent!

          4. Wow, EWD, that’s fucked up.

        2. You know you’ve got the proper percentage when all artists feel equally excluded and ignored.

  20. The sea gets furious at time and as it bombasts the shore it tears it apart. Ah, nut it is the wave licking the shore day after day that makes the changes.

    Black, white, male, female, gay lesbian, straight, catholic,(this is a buggy I meant biggy), hispanic, ( they come in all colors), asians ( big job there), caucasians (also a wide variety of hues, from dark hair to corn husk and milk white skin to somewhat olive, pedigree ( ah, yes the school that makes you anointed) and the big one that everyone, young and old discriminate against, AGE. All of these are factors that work against all of us, ( take your pick), are there and are REALITIES.

    The non-profits and the gallerists, the curators and museums, or the teachers in a school, and the artists themselves, NO ONE IS INMUNE, what to do, perhaps we just have to keep eroding the monster in all of us.

    But, wait a minute! Were we not talking about art?

  21. Dam spell checker and language correction! : There is no “nut” in this post (perhaps the writer). Please change the nut in “Ah, nut it is the wave licking the shore day after day that makes the changes.” to but. Thanks!

  22. My father is black, my mother is half Hispanic and Asian, and I am a women. Do I get quadruple credit? Ha ha! I consider myself an Artists first and foremost and honestly would feel spited if I was given a show based not on my work but on the color of my skin/ race. I don’t need a hand out, I choose to be juried by my work alone.

  23. I am hoping DADA will be analyzed as well. We have the motto of art for all and do try hard to incorporate all types of artists…and all sorts of art facilities from commercial galleries, to community college galleries, to nonprofit art spaces and city owned spaces…

  24. Thank you for this article. I think it’s a worthwhile and important step in the right direction. I do agree with Misty’s comment above that the “other” label can be expanded. Can’t wait to see your new numbers. I would also love to see you expand the statistics into non-CADD galleries; particularly, OFG, Dallas Contemporary, the MAC, and, though I know it’s probably too early to tell, the up-and-coming Zhulong Gallery.

  25. You guys know that Darryl’s article is pointing to something systematic, not necissarily pointing fingers at individuals and calling them racists, right?

    Yes, the inequities in the system (which includes art schools, non-profits, public and private education at the primary and secondary level, the larger economy, etc) go much deeper than the commercial art market of an individual city. But this data is where we see the symptoms most easily represented. If we’re really dissatisfied with Darryl’s handling of the data set, maybe we should see that an anthropologist reworks it, but I suspect the response would be the same.

    Rather than respond to something like this by saying “here are all the ways in which I’m already not a racist”, maybe it would be more useful to accept that we are involved in a system that is bigger than each of is, and we can either work to perpetuate inequity, or acknowledge it and make adjustments.

    1. Yez,ve must make ze adjustmentz!! You shult make ze strike from ze arts Michael Morris! If you voult say, “hey, I’m not taking zis lying down, I am going to make ze adjustment unt am going to give up ze artz zo zat ze eskimo who ist under-reprezented can have mein plaze in ze art vurld unt I vill give up all of mein shows to ze eskimo”, zen you vult really be zticking it to ze man! Zis is ze zolution! All of you vhyte people, it iz time for you to zay, I vant equality! I vant race quotas! I vant gallery reprezentation to be bazed on race unt not ze quality of ze art! I vant more racizm! Zen you zhould stand up unt give up ze art unt go to play ze basketball in ze NBA zo zat ze zyztem vould be equal for everyone!

      1. Nice eskimo and NBA drop

        1. Danke. I get 50 boxes of fried schvitzenstuben every time I zay NBA. It ist gut to be zponzered.

  26. Wow,
    never thought I would agree with Hitler….

    1. Vell, I’ve really grown az ze person you know zince the last Holocaust.

      Ve all make ze mistakes you know? It vaz really just ze accident. I vas at an important meeting viz all of ze movers unt der shakers of mein day unt ve vere eating ze frankenkraunzenbrenvinbrillers undt talking politics. I vas listening to Her Goring prattle on about zis unt zat and I took a drink of mien juice to vash down a bite of strudel…

      The juize vas ze most rotten disgusting juize zat I hat ever hat in mein life and I haf very sensitive bowels unt zer is nozing more destructive for weak bowels zen rotten juize! I vas gagging on ze juice and ze strudel unt viz a full mouth in mein anger I zlammed my hand down on ze table unt screamed out “Ze Juize ist disgusting, unt rotten, unt vile! Ve must get rid of ze juize or it vill ravage mein colon!”

      Before I knew it, zix million Jews ver dead unt ve had invaded Poland. I vill never talk viz mien mouth full again! Voops! Zorry about zat everyone!

      It’s been a long time now you know and I hope now zat everyone can aggzept me unt recognize me as ze most influential artizt who ever lived. You know, I don’t get ze credit zat I deserve for ze NAZI art group. Ve just vanted to accomplish ze art project zat I called ze zird reich. It was all about ze architecture unt ze fashion unt der haircolor unt being fabulous you know? I juzt vanted to make ze vurld like a pretty painting.

      People point to mein dravings unt mein vatercolors und zey say zat zis ist mein art. Nien! Zey ver only ze beginning!

      Ze Nazi art group vas ze largest artist group in ze vorld! Ve vere very ahead of our time! We created art on all levels! Architecture! I redesigned ze Berlin!

      Fashion! Have you ever seen our uniforms? Can you say ze vort”fabulous”?

      Graphic Dezign! Talk about brand recognition!

      Zer Performance Art! We did large performance art pieces viz marching soldiers und ze cheering people und hand waves!

      Graffiti! Ve put Banksy to shame! “Oh, look at me I am ze Banksy unt I hung one of mein paintings in ze art museum wizout ze permission cause I am so cool”. Dummkopf! I emptied entire museums and hung whatever I wanted on the valls vizout permizion!

      You zink you invented ze anti-advertising graffiti? Are you kitting? No one did anti-advertising graffiti like I did! Ve shut down entire stores unt painted on ze INSIDE walls.

      Video Art! Ve had a whole team of people vorking on making video art about our art project.

      Curating! Ve filled museums! Ve picked art from here unt zer unt promoted ze artists zat ve liked.

      Ve ver combining ze commerzial art viz ze noncommerzial before almozt anyvon. For uz everyzing vas part of ze art project from ze video to ze zpeeches to ze vay ve zoluted each ozer.

      Ve had artistic vision unt taste! People say “oh, ze NAZI’s were just rich people pushing their artistic taste on everyone else and manipulating ze art vorld. Do you zink ze art market iz different today? Itz ze zame zing. You have ze bunch of rich unt powerful people creating ze taste unt everyzing. Ve vere all about ze art! Ze Zird Reich was ze vorlds largest art movement! It vas all about making our artistic vision a reality! NAZI really stands for Natural Artists, Zero Inhibitions.

      Yah, but now zat zis is all over unt I am a ghost I am zinking of taking up ze new art project… Maybe zis is it you know? To make ze art vurld more racizt viz ze race quotas unt fit perfectly viz ze demographics of ze vurld… It sounds like mein kind zing.

      Anyvay, if you zee me around ze galleries please don’t be afraid to zay Heil-o to me.

  27. “Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.”

    James Baldwin, The Fire Next TIme

  28. As a life-long student of free jazz, African American art, (non-pop) music and poetry are very important to me. This discussion comes up even more often in jazz based music – a predominantly African American art form. The answer in that case is most often that they are on to other things as opposed to being shut out.

    There is another article I read recently about the lack of women in Wynton Marsalis’ jazz orchestra. I have a hard time imagining a female musician playing on a high enough level to be in that group actually wanting to play with a pig like Wynton! At the same time, if there were data about rejected competent female musicians who actually auditioned it would be yet one more strike against him.

    Data like the above really tells us nothing. If there were data documenting working artists of other racial make ups submitting work to these galleries and being turned down that would be a place where actual work could get done.

    In terms of what art “needs” it isn’t really numbers. More non-white voices offering great work with another perspective on things would enrich the situation, more Jennie C. Jones’ and Ben Pattersons would enrich the situation, not random numbers.

  29. What about cyborgs? I mean where are they to fit? Google Glasses and all? Who’s going to protect them? They are victims too! Please protect the cyborgs.

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