Artforum Weighs in on the Dallas Art Fair: There are No Artists Here

by Lucia Simek April 25, 2014
Left: Artist Richard Phillips and Dallas Contemporary director Peter Doroshenko. Right: Artist Julian Schnabel. (courtesy Allese Thomson via Art Forum)

Left: Artist Richard Phillips and Dallas Contemporary director Peter Doroshenko. Right: Artist Julian Schnabel. (courtesy Allese Thomson via Art Forum)

Popping up the other day on Artforum’s society blog, “Scene and Herd,” was the latest (belated) dispatch about the Dallas Art Fair and its attendant brouhaha. For the upper echelons of Dallas’ patron/collector/institutional posse, the yearly Artforum society column relaying the DAF goings-on makes for some of the year’s best navel gazing: party pics and toss-off quotes about how great Dallas is, how the collectors are fueling a renaissance, and how big their houses are. And on a yearly basis, Dallasites of the non-jet-set variety, artists mostly, read Artforum’s summary of DAF weekend with no small measure of caution, waiting for the inevitable line someone of the jet-set will say about Dallas’ one sore lack of vitality—there are no artists here.

This year, amid the requisite play-by-play of the weekend by a writer named Allese Thomson (who, btw, is not nearly as clever and insightful as Artforum’s usual correspondent Linda Yablonsky), the line decrying the dearth of artists came from former gallery owner and now big time art advisor John Runyon. “’It’s not a city for galleries’. . . Artists, he suggested, feel like they can’t stay here. ‘I suppose it’s the missing link.’”

If artists in Dallas do feel like they can’t stay, which may in fact be true, it has very much to do with the fact that at every turn their own famed collectors negate them to major media outlets, sight unseen, helping to fracture the city’s viability for artists that much more. Thanks.

What would happen if every collector familiarized himself with the local scene the slightest bit—went to one of DB14’s incredibly curated spaces or Karen Weiner’s pitch-perfect Reading Room—so that, when asked, they could give a more informed answer?  Some collectors, like Alden and Janelle Pinnell of Power Station, have done this, even mounting a show of local artists. When they are asked about the local scene, they have a real perspective on the quality and intelligence of what goes on in their city, outside of the glasshouses, and they are able to promulgate an idea of the city’s culture that doesn’t allow for this notion of artistic missing links.

The missing link in Dallas’ sum-total World Classiness isn’t artists, it’s top-down engagement, Mr. Runyon.  And please do not underestimate the economics of language: Maybe when Dallas artists are not cancelled on a yearly basis by those with access and sway they could trust in staying put and being engaged in the wider art market that Dallas is so keen on being part of.



Janet Tyson April 25, 2014 - 10:00

But why lurk around the domestic scene, when one can jet hither and thither?

Titus O'Brien April 25, 2014 - 12:04

Dallas has an art fair?

Titus O'Brien April 25, 2014 - 12:05

There are still art fairs?

Turtles April 25, 2014 - 12:25

A friend of mine moved from Shreveport, LA to Dallas a year ago and was appalled by the lack of artist support in his new town. Granted, we have one of the best arts councils in the nation and artists coming out of our ears, but a lack of public institutions to support collaboration and creativity seems to be endemic to Texas.

Erik April 25, 2014 - 12:27

It is a shame that Dallas views art and culture as either or nothing at all. Dallas is full of good interesting people trying out ideas and thoughts, call them fine artists, performers, what have you, they are at least experimenting with concepts that are their own. Like it or not, it is happening, and it is moving forward whether the elites of the city like it or not. The goal of making art is not about selling it. It is about getting it off your chest. Making it so. A roller coaster of doubt and improvement of skill or observation. Pulling pranks and making things happen behind the scenes with out claiming attention is what the “movers and shakers” do in Dallas. Granted there is a clot of exploitation of the creatives in this town because of the completely underpowered infrastructure dedicated to the artists themselves, not the wealthy or 30thousandmillionare socialites that want to play the part but not get their hands dirty. Kickstarting simple ideas like sketch clubs and centers where artists, good and bad, know that they have a place to meet others is a way to start. It is not a massive opera house or museum full of dead artists to make a city aware of the culture of art. It is a city that takes it’s local artists seriously, to encourage and promote it’s artists. It doesn’t try to rip them off or make them pay to do what they do on top of the costs of materials and time. Dallas puts the money into the hands of those that don’t need it. That are already established in other places and that is great for them but it only exports our wealth out of our own city.

Reid Robinson April 26, 2014 - 17:32

Erik, Agree with you and think many artists have developed around and in-spite “elites of the city”. The “massive” houses of the past will have to embrace these ideas or loss their patronage and audience. It’s beginning to happen here and there, with interesting bits being integrated into a once stale curation model. We had circuit benders(GuadioTX, Good/Bad) at the Perot last Friday, and seeing examples of this more often every day. Evolve or die!

Lily Taylor April 25, 2014 - 13:06

I have so much to say, it would never fit in this comment box, so I’ll stick to a BIG THANK YOU to Lucia Simek for this article and your refreshing attitude, especially clear in the last two paragraphs. I have been a part of art communities in Santa Fe, NM and San Francisco, CA, and what is happening in DFW right now is really special. Awareness and attitude shifts can change anything, really.

Debbie Hollis April 25, 2014 - 13:34

For the record, THIS is what Shreveport’s arts council is doing over here:

We artists must abandon the idea of bureaucracies funding our profession, and take control of our own destinies! That’s why I’ve created Works In Progress ( – we’re applying for non-governmental grants and putting the money directly in the hands of creative professionals. Artists helping artists!!

Eli Walker April 25, 2014 - 21:47

“If artists in Dallas do feel like they can’t stay, which may in fact be true, it has very much to do with the fact that at every turn their own famed collectors negate them to major media outlets, sight unseen, helping to fracture the city’s viability for artists that much more. Thanks.”

-WTF are you trying to say here? What famed collectors? Who are the artists that are leaving? Your only source is Art Forum as a media outlet? What facts are you basing this on?

Why does Glasstire perpetuate opinion pieces that spur negative responses instead of actually reporting on the issues of positive change in the Texas arts community?

In short- Why do you get paid for writing this drivel?

Lucia Simek April 25, 2014 - 23:07

Eli, the piece is about the way language used by art patrons to describe Dallas’ scene is often off the mark because they are not engaged in it on the level that artists are; and this is the language that perpetuates, on a global scale, the notion that Dallas buys big and makes nothing. It is at the service of no one to say that there are no artists here (which is not my thought but Runyon’s)–not the artists that are positively changing the Texas arts community, and not at the service of the collectors’ own mission to establish Dallas as a cultural outpost/frontier. I’m of the opinion that the language of deficiency– language that subtracts artists from the equation of Dallas’ vitality–is worth attention in this space.

TJ April 26, 2014 - 11:46

There’s a lot of money here, a lot of artists, and a lotta space. Though the ducks are not quite in a row. I think this is a perfectly powerful type of dialogue to have, and not at all “drivel” like most of what is, in fact, in Art Forum. Local and regional discussions about the health and well-being of the arts is essential to our livelihood.

Another Hater April 28, 2014 - 10:33

How nice of you to so politely correct Eli of his/her opinion. However, at this point I am also fed up of the crap perpetuated on this site. If this is just some silly art collector bullshit, sure go ahead and make fun of it. It’s easy and fun to do. Why not? Can there not be one serious and thoughtful article on this site? EVER?? As a Houston resident who works in the art world, I read this website pretty much every day….and very rarely have I ever come off, at least recently, feeling that I was actually informed of anything other than puff pieces or someone writing about some college kids doing performance art (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) or the founder’s stupid experience with an old dying artist who she did not bother to research one iota before writing some stupid opinion which was really better left to oneself or close friends. I mean, I get tired of boring old art criticism as much as the next person but at this point I am pretty much dying for it. No wonder people don’t take Texas art seriously. Glasstire should take more responsibility for the position it has gotten itself into whether it likes it or not. This is not a high school newspaper. So, why write as though it is??? There are real and hardworking, amazing and fantastic artists here (Houston, Dallas, TEXAS) that should be represented and respected seriously as such. Yes, art should be fun and maybe not take itself so seriously all the time. But this is just ridiculous.

Rainey Knudson April 28, 2014 - 11:21

Dear “Another Hater”,

Of the 17 articles currently featured on our homepage, 9 are reviews of shows in Texas, 2 are features about Texas artists, 1 is an overview of an artist-driven happening, 1 is a newsy story about an art event, 1 is a photo essay admittedly not specifically about art, and 3 are a new cartoon series we’ve started about people looking at art. Drawn by a Texas artist.

Which means there are at least 9 pieces of “boring old art criticism” for you on there.

Welcome. Let us bore you.

“The Founder”

Robert Boyd April 28, 2014 - 14:12

At least Glasstire is better than those clowns at The Great God Pan Is Dead.

Rainey Knudson April 28, 2014 - 14:36

Send in the clowns!

Steven Cochran April 26, 2014 - 19:33

One big difference I have seen between Dallas and major art centers is that when word gets out that good work is being shown at some hole in the wall gallery in say, New York, they would jump into a cab, get down there, and buy the work. But then again, Manhattanites are (although this is less true today, due to the dilution and displacement of native New Yorkers, and the flood of franchise chains in the city) cut from a different cloth than your typical Highland Park resident. But even those idiots can learn. Or so I hope.
What Dallas needs to learn from New York is how to make the local talent (both native and imported) important enough to themselves, while they have the economic clout to do so.
We are in the midst of relative economic prosperity, and growth, due to the rise of the cost of petroleum products. It is a parasitic industry, and only seems to prosper when all others are weakened. It won’t last forever. It is unsustainable. The time for Dallas to pull its collective head out of its ass, and make something of itself, is now. As Pecker once said, “Let them come to Baltimore”.
This cannot be accomplished with an “art fair”. Sure, Miami benefited from exposure through these trade shows. But it didn’t establish an art center through them.
Dallas needs to be more adventurous in buying from local artists, and using their economic clout to get these artists work out in the big art centers, as well.
It has been a long while since Robyn O’Neil, Trent Hancock, and Erick Swenson made it into the big leagues from the Metro-burg. We only managed to retain one of these artists. How can the ones who aren’t selling work here be expected to stay? It isn’t a lack of talent. It is a lack of support. Get your plastic asses out there, and be real.

Kirk April 27, 2014 - 15:12

I totally agree with you.

Wanda Dye April 28, 2014 - 17:11

Well, I am of the opinon that unless this quote was recorded and heard in context I would not believe that John Runyon would say this or mean how it is translated here. He was in fact in the RE gallery booth at least a couple of times to my knowledge. Looking and asking about the work. I even exchanged cards with him and he was very congenial, interested and supportive. All collectors, consultants, gallery director/owners, and artists; from established to beginning, from astute to modest, have all have been VERY supportive and acquire work from RE gallery. I have been showing local what some might misguided minds might say “provincial” work. BUT the artists’ have been educated by some the best, Scott Reeder, Michelle Grabner, and the best schools – Cooper Union, Cornell, SMU, UNT, MICA, SAIC and so on. FAR from provincial in my book.

To just once again blanket, misquote, and/or take out of context some quip by a busy stressed out consultant at a fair.. Then it is the PRESS that is not engaged. Not the consultants, collectors, artists, gallery directors. etc. I am sorry but I am really feed up with lazy platitudinous reporting from GT. I like Lucia and her work but some the reports GT has put out is some of the worst ill informed writing I have read. You can do better.

Wanda Dye April 28, 2014 - 17:30

Let be know that I have been selling work before the fair. Selling and the support from Dallas collectors and sonsultatns is what gave me CONFIDENCE to take it to another level. So thank you Dallas – upper and middle echelon. Access can be had if you work hard and to be honest being represented helps artists do this. I am really tired of artists critiquing institutions and money but are more than happy to have shows in the very institutions and criticizing the very people that support these institutions. IE DMA and the Contemporary among others. I am really tired of snarky double bitter standards. Just do good work and stop looking over your shoulder or finding classes or cities to blame.

Lucia Simek April 29, 2014 - 09:00

Wanda, I think you misunderstand me. My point is that local artists ARE selling work to collectors, are working hard, and are gaining “access” – from sales at galleries like yours to projects like DB14 at the Goss-Michael Foundation, Power Station, etc. So why does a collector/adviser like Runyon say there aren’t artists in this city? Words from him have an effect. That’s my point, and it isn’t snark. It’s simply a request that those who speak for the art in this city offer VERBAL support to artists, acknowledging their existence, rather than discounting them to the national media. Words matter. They go a long way in creating the identity of a place.

Wanda Dye April 28, 2014 - 17:33

pardon the typos but i am a bit miffed.

Mary Tomas April 28, 2014 - 17:45

I agree. We have some incredible talent right under our noses and more money needs to be spent with local galleries and the artists they represent. If we look to outsiders to validate the arts community in Dallas then we do a disservice to the hard working folks who are trying to make it happen here. Educating the public is a place to start as well as articles that delve into what is taking place in Dallas.

Jan Ayers Friedman May 1, 2014 - 15:42

I keep thinking about a comment from a well-known gallerist in Dallas. I was picking up my work from a show: the work had generated a lot of interest at the opening, and so I asked about potential sales as I was loading it back up. She sighed and said “They think this is a museum.” The public comes, eats the cheese, adores the art, then buys a framed print at Dillard’s. Your comment about educating the public is spot on- my own best friend took years to convince she really could own original art.

Erik April 28, 2014 - 19:02

It’s kinda like hiring out architects or bridge designers from other areas instead of hiring local talent to do big ideas. Kinda puts a squash on those people that want stuff to happen.

joel Sampson April 28, 2014 - 23:54

As Wanda said “Just do good work and stop looking over your shoulder or finding classes or cities to blame.” Excellent response!

I still see a lot of “beginner art” at mid-level and even “A” galleries. Not to mention the selection of contemporary art at the DMA.

Erik April 29, 2014 - 12:12

There is not as much quality work as there could be. The art world, reflecting today’s society, puts way too much importance on getting something knocked out quickly instead of worrying about quality. I love quick raw ideas if they are amazing and that comes down completely to curation. There has been some real garbage shown and I don’t blame the artist as much as the curation of the show.

I agree partially with just “not worrying about it” and do art but that is also not a solution. As far as blame on a class or a city to blame is an easy excuse for business as usual to occur in a city as big as dallas. It puts gate keepers in charge and sometimes makes terrible choices happen.

Bill Bounds April 29, 2014 - 09:57

I lived in Dallas from 1980 to 1992 and was very involved in the art scene then. We all bitched about DMA (“the Temple”), local collectors buying Texas art from New York galleries, lack of local support, etc. Then for 15 years I lived in a peer city to Dallas (not in Texas) and even had a gallery in that city for 3 years. Now being back in Dallas for almost 6 years, I can only say “get over yourselves.” Try living in another city to see how they do their art scene and art business. Dallas is an amazing art city with a thriving scene. It’s a joy to be here. And while not an artist, I believe that it is a great city for artists. Is it the best? Well, probably not, but instead of whining go find that city and report back.

Steven Cochran April 29, 2014 - 10:42

I did not catch John Runyon being given as the source of this unfortunate comment. I would have to agree that it was probably taken out of context. I don’t know him. But I remember Kenneth Turner being very nice, and supportive of emerging artists. in spite of the fact that he wasn’t representing them. I don’t think his former business partner would be much different, in that respect.

Michael A. Morris April 30, 2014 - 00:43

As a potential antidote, I recommend these two little articles by local art worlders Leigh Arnold and Brittany Ransom on the Bad at Sports blog:


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