You’ve by now heard tell of how this year’s TWO x TWO guest of honor, the artist Mark Grotjahn, got all perschnickered on art-party libations, stumbled off scene just before his painting went on the auction block to sell for a cool one million, as a golden-robed Patti LaBelle belted out “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi.” He swaggered up the long Rachofsky driveway, out through the metal gates, and landed on a small patch of grass on the side of Preston Road where he passed out, only after cursing out an assistant who was beleaguered, no doubt, from trying to keep wild Grotjahn safely caged within the eminent Rachofsky art compound. Thankfully, a Dallas Morning News society reporter, Allan Peppard, was on hand to capture the scene on his phone’s camera, demonstrating why it is that journalists are politely not encouraged to attend TWO x TWO (though they can purchase a ticket at someone’s table), and thus forever securing himself as a hero to all of us on this side of the fence. Cheers, Mr. Peppard! I heartily toast you with my canned Lone Star.
The upswing of TWO x TWO’s legendary debauchery (besides witnessing art stars knoodle beds of clover) is, of course, all the money that’s raised for AIDS research and for the DMA to grow its contemporary art collection. This year, the auction set a record: $4.8 million raised from the auctioning of donated work from artists and galleries across the world. Fantastic! All that moolah is a good thing, even though the hangovers likely aren’t.
Participating in TWO x TWO is important for everyone involved — artists, dealers, advisors, the whole complicated art market food chain. Many of Dallas best galleries give work to the auction, as it behooves them to do, considering the auction brings all those important eyes in front of their artists’ work and their gallery’s name. And then there’s the whole spirit of comradery, this-is-our-city, Dallas-has-good-art-I-swear thing that encourages Dallas galleries to participate — in other words, galleries have a really wonderful chance of acting as ambassadors for Dallas to the throngs of people from Art Elsewhere that go to TWO x TWO. I daresay, it must be a lot of pressure, considering the expectations out-of-towners might place upon Dallas’ art scene since art patrons like Howard Rachofsky live here and bring everyone in the Art World down here for such a huge brouhaha. I imagine it’d feel pretty cool to be from here, showing work from your gallery at the auction, backing up Big D, representing. It must be a few really proud days for Dallas gallerists.
Well, everyone that went to TWO x TWO this year, and every gallerist that participated, was given the Fall issue of Whitewall Magazine, via mail or gift bag, that features an interview with Howard and Cindy Rachofsky about TWO x TWO. In it, the Rachofsky’s are asked if there are any groups of Dallas artists or Texas artists that the couple feels “an obligation to support.” Here’s how the Rachofskies answered:
Howard: Not so much. I don’t want to say it’s a sensitive subject, but —
Cindy: I think other communities would say the same thing, it’s sensitive in all communities. You want to be supportive. We have local artists in the collection, absolutely — we try to support the local gallery scene and go to the openings and things like that — but I don’t think Dallas has an incredibly vibrant gallery scene. We wish it had a better scene.
HR: It’s been growing some, but not significantly. It has not evolved in the way the collective art community has.
CR: That’s hard for local galleries. They don’t understand why that is the case; they don’t understand why people can’t stay regionally and buy regionally. I’ve tried to put myself in their shoes and I completely understand. It’s an issue, certainly something we struggle with.
Certainly,we all struggle with the limits or shortfalls of Dallas’ art scene, as we’ve hashed out here in this Glasstire space quite often. But always, always, any question of the viability and health of Dallas’ gallery scene comes back to the collectors themselves, and whether or not they support and allow, through their patronage, for a vibrant scene. When I suggested last month that galleries could be more daring to help foster a richer eco-system, it was suggested in the comments, more than once, that Dallas collectors wouldn’t go for such a thing, and that until collectors do, galleries can’t venture into more challenging terrain.
So I’m wondering about all this chicken and the egg business between galleries and collectors — what’s the primary reason that Dallas’ gallery scene hasn’t, as Mr. Rachofsky says, “evolved in the way the collective art community has”? Is it the collectors’ fault for not supporting the galleries and therefore discouraging others from doing so, or the galleries for not making the collectors want to? And who’s the “collective art community,” anyway? The collectors themselves? The artists? The gallery go-ers? Me? You?
What Dallas art community is thriving, and why isn’t it necessarily overflowing onto the gallery scene? And what should be done, those of you within that “collective art community,” to inject Dallas with the vibrancy that wouldn’t make our most important collectors feel compelled to hand out a very polite take-down of that local gallery scene to their esteemed guests and generous art donators, including those from their own hometown?
What does a vibrant “scene” even look like? I’d ask Mark Grotjahn, but I don’t think he remembers.