500X: Provocative Space Confronts Closing Challenge

by Randall Garrett February 24, 2020

Exterior view of 500X Gallery, from the “20×500” exhibition catalogue on 500X’s 20th anniversary in 1998

The venerable Dallas artist-run space, 500X Gallery, has just announced that their landlord, The Gibson Company, has terminated their lease, and that they will be closing on April 13th. This comes on the heels of their recent provocative group exhibition Queer Me Now, which was ordered shut down by the landlords shortly after opening. Curated by current board member Narong Tintamusik, the show was closed supposedly due to complaints by some tenants in the building with which the gallery shares common space.

At that time, a number of area art spaces stepped up to offer support in reinstalling the show elsewhere, and it went on to a second iteration at the The MAC’s new space in The Cedars. After the controversy over that show’s closing, it cannot be a coincidence that the Notice to Vacate was sent to the gallery by their landlords just three days after they announced their planned LGBTQIA+ show, set to be juried by artists Brian Jones and Brian Scott, which was going to open in May.

Richard Childers (left) and Will Hipps (right), co-founders of 500X Gallery

This closing is a true loss to the Dallas-Fort Worth arts community. 500X Gallery is one of the longest-running galleries in the Metroplex, and one of the first artist-run cooperative galleries in the country, having produced its debut exhibition in 1978. The gallery was co-founded by Massachusetts native Will Hipps, who had moved to the Dallas area to teach at the University of Texas at Dallas, and Richard Childers, who was staging monthly “First Saturday” art exhibits in Fair Park for artists without gallery representation.

Montage of gallery installations and invitation postcards, from “20×500” exhibition catalogue, 1998

Early shows included work by member artists Tom Orr, Frances Bagley, Vincent Falsetta, and Celia Eberle, along with guest artists such as Nic Nicosia, James Surls, Michael Tracy, John Wilcox, Frank X. Tolbert, and Bert Long. Over the years, members and exhibiting artists have included Scott Barber, Tim Best, Steve Cruz, CJ Davis, Timothy Harding, Joseph Havel, Clayton Hurt, Robert McAn, Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, Giovanni Valderas, and literally hundreds of others. 500X’s annual “Open Show,” which began in the ’90s, and then transformed into the “Hot and Sweaty” show a few years ago, typically showcased more than a hundred area artists works, stacked floor-to-ceiling on both levels of the gallery.

“Queer Me Now” artists pictured with exhibition curator Narong Tintamusik (courtesy of 500X Gallery)

Social commentary and protest have been a staple at 500X over the years, going back to the Left Right exhibition of 1984, curated by Dwayne Carter, which was staged to coincide with the Republican National Convention which came to Dallas that year. The current crop of gallery artists, whose curatorial promotion of identity-based work that pushes the edges around gender and sexuality, lit a spark that seems to have caused the Gibson Company to pull the plug on 500X’s lease.

In the early ’90s, 500X was one of the only spaces for unrepresented artists to show their work, along with the non-profits DARE (Dallas Artists for Research and Exhibition), which would morph into the MAC, and D’Art, which eventually became the Dallas Contemporary. More recently, as artist collectives and pop-up shows have become more common, nurtured by the strong arts programs of area universities, the evolving artist community has become even more prolific and less dependent on the gallery system.

This in and of itself is a testimony to the influence of 500X, which has nurtured the development of untold numbers of local artists, who have gone on to create major public works around the Metroplex, to find placement in numerous collections, to become distinguished faculty members and arts professionals, and to run or exhibit in area galleries. As Janet Kutner, former art critic of The Dallas Morning News, wrote in her essay for the gallery’s 20th anniversary show in 1998, “the gallery’s survival record is astonishing, given the fact that artist-run spaces seldom last more than a few seasons. But year-in and year-out, 500X has been here — nurturing new talent, exposing audiences to things they wouldn’t otherwise see, and raising the energy level of this community dramatically.”

“Queer Me Now” exhibition promo image (courtesy of 500X Gallery and The MAC)

In their press release announcing the upcoming closing, the current board members express that “500X Gallery stands by its mission to promote and provide opportunities to a diverse group of emerging artists in the Dallas / Fort Worth community and beyond. We hope to find another outlet to continue our longstanding commitment to artists in Texas.” For the ongoing growth of the local arts community, of which 500X has been a primary incubator, we can hope that the current board members will find the means and support to locate a new home, and that 500X may live to see its next anniversary.


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Michael A. Morris February 24, 2020 - 21:59

This is unconscionable. We should call for a total boycott of the Gibson Company for its homophobia, censorship, and profiting off the backs of artists. There should be a movement for rent stabilization and tenants rights in Dallas so there is some offset to the power of landlords. Fuck Gibson, fuck landlords, and fuck everyone that uses artists as an excuse to raise the rent. This is war.

Joachim West February 25, 2020 - 06:27

I second you on the fuck the Gibson Company comment. That’s the same asshole who shut down CentralTrak. I’ve shown porn art at 500x and it wasn’t censored or taken down, I think because it depicted women and not gay men. It was only when it was gay art that it was taken down and the threat of more gay art meant that he had to shut down the entire operation. You know, Dallas is so corrupt and ridiculous, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there were old man Trump type real estate magnates like this one in bed with the government, getting shit built with public money in their own interest and not the public interest in mind, changing laws to benefit them and maybe even getting fire marshalls to do them favors and go after art spaces or whoever they want. Would you be surprised? The Gibson Company apparently doesn’t care at all about abusing their tenants. It seems to me that they bought a bunch of shitty space in a shitty place and then used artists to gentrify the area and now they are kicking them out because they’re done using them and because they don’t like the gays.

Mrs. Obvious February 24, 2020 - 23:30

I have read many posts about the 500X closing on social media. I have showed at 500X in the past and support this great artspace very much. Yet, I have noticed that no one is really talking about the details about what happened. People are saying that Gipson Company “didn’t support LGBT artwork.” Well that isn’t the entire story, or even a majority of it. The show that essentially closed 500X was highly pornographic with extreme vulgarity and simply grotesque imagery and illustration. The problem wasn’t that the artwork was “LGBT”, it’s that it was highly offensive and simply gross in nature. I have news for the leftwing artworld, most people don’t want to see hardcore gay porn illustrated and prominently displayed. It doesn’t have anything to do with being in supportive or unsupportive of wokeness or any other leftwing nonsense. It’s about being aware of the “line” and not to cross it. Nearly all art spaces have a line of what is acceptable and what is simply not acceptable. They may not identify this line as being a known line not to cross, but once you have crossed it, generally you will know.

Everyone has the right to make offensive, grotesque, hardcore extreme gay porn artwork, yet you don’t have the right to have it shown wherever you please. 500X should have realized that the line was crossed, and instead of gambling the entire future of this wonderful and historic venue, they should have simply removed it. 500X should have realized that their is a reason why hardcore gay porn imagery is not acceptable to have hanging on the walls of the gallery. Even after the announcement of the gallery space closing, I have seen absolutely zero social media posts which take my side in this matter. Instead, like most left wing ideologs, they think it was worth it to keep pushing Gipson company until they simply couldn’t be pushed any longer. 500X should be ashamed that they let wokeness and extreme partisan politics take over the direction of the gallery directly and predictably forcing its peril. Now thousands of future artists and students will not have a space to show and grow. The looney left will seemingly never learn that the public, and especially those with power, connections, and financial backing always have another alternative.

Well, was it worth it? Of course it wasn’t! Now because of stubborn left wing radicalism, identity politics, and extremely overrated and over discussed gross pornographic gay illustrations, a wonderful artspace is probably doomed forever. You know the saying “Go Woke Go Broke”…..dummies.

Mr. Obvious February 25, 2020 - 09:26

Thank you for your insight Mrs. Obvious. As a frequent attendee of the gallery, I was shocked to see some of the content of the show. Honestly, I would be surprised if the show was previewed by the members prior to installation. Furthermore, I don’t believe the management company condemned the content, but they did condemn the violence in it within a public space. (as they should have done) If “porn” was shown at prior shows, it obviously wasn’t brought to the attention of the management company, so the necessity of a response was not clearly known.

Jordan February 25, 2020 - 09:55

Mrs Obvious, the work wasn’t extreme pornography. It wasn’t created to get people off, it was work that illustrated the realities and fantasies queer people encounter regularly. Gay porn imagery Isn’t sensational in the lives of many young queer people who have been confronted with the imagery since childhood. The imagery you allude to was cartoonish and satirical. Not or meant for arousal. Some was erotica but vulgar hardcore pornography? Do a google search and you’ll find what you’re looking for. It’s lot left wing role liberalism that allows a segment of our culture to express themselves through art – it’s inclusive programming.

Michael A. Morris February 25, 2020 - 10:37

If you’re concerned about lines your not supposed to cross, maybe you don’t have any business being an artist.

Joachim West February 25, 2020 - 11:56

Mrs. Oblivious, you are terribly misinformed.

For one thing, the artwork that you are speaking of WAS effectively censored. They DID remove it 2 days after the show opened. it seems far more likely that the show that resulted in 500x having their lease removed was not the previous show which had already been effectively censored a long time ago but the upcoming LGBTQ+ show curated by Chuck and George.

Without seeing the lease agreement, you can’t say that they didn’t have the right to show gay art in the space that they had been paying to use for a very long time.

I don’t see this as an issue of wokeness or liberal ideology at its core, so to me your ranting about liberalism and wokeness came off as completely inane. This has to do with censorship and being considerate to other human beings, though I will agree that conservatives do have a long history of censoring art, burning Beatles records, prosecuting artists like Egon Schiele, attacking Harry Potter and the whole Nazi art thing etc. and also killing gays and persecuting them in other ways. You could switch around all of the political orientations in this story and it would still be the same story. I don’t even know if the artist who painted the original work that was censored was a liberal or conservative. I have no idea if the Gibson company is full of liberals or conservatives.

At the end of the day, this is what I do know; The Gibson Company showed a complete disregard for one of their longstanding tenants and they have a history of doing the same to others and through their actions, they showed what appears to me to be a bias against the LGBTQ+ community. They were not gracious in how they handled this matter.

I’m sad to hear that you are so easily offended by “degenerate art”, that “gross” gay art stuff. Degenerate art is often some of the very best. Anyways, have fun with your watercolor paintings of houses and german shepherds but if you really want to be on the side of censorship, consider censoring yourself for your own benefit because the things that you said made you look like an idiot.

J. Mendez February 25, 2020 - 09:56

Mrs. Obvious,
You clearly don’t know the definition of “woke” because it doesn’t apply at all to this situation or to any of the ways you chose to use it. Also, reading with comprehension is important. 500X took the show down as soon as the building owners requested it. I love how you blame everything on left wing ideology, last time I checked pornography has nothing to do with politics. I’m certain right and left wing people view pornography. Just as there are left wing and right wing folks who DON’T indulge. If the closing was solely about the show and it’s pornography, then the problem had been solved. It was taken down. You and I both know it wasn’t about that. The posting of another show by 2 totally different curators involving the gay community was just the perfect excuse to do what they’d already had plans for. This story is about gentrification, not porn or gay folk or left wing ideology. I would think that was obvious, Mrs. Obvious.
And when was “go woke go broke” a saying? ……NEVER. Maybe in your, “ I like to stereotype everything because I’m lazy” mind.

Ashley February 25, 2020 - 10:12

Mrs. Obvious— do your research. You said, “500X should have realized that the line was crossed, and instead of gambling the entire future of this wonderful and historic venue, they should have simply removed it.” 500X DID REMOVE THE ART YOU ARE SPEAKING ABOUT. The work in the Queer Me Now exhibition was removed as soon as the landlord emailed 500X to demand it be taken down. The termination of the gallery’s lease happened 3 days after a new call for entry was announced, an LGBTQIA+ exhibition juried by Chuck & George. This call for entry did not have anything to do with graphic or sexually explicit content, it was simply a show for people who identify in the LGBTQIA+ community to have an opportunity to show their work in 500X. You also do not understand how 500X works. This is a progressive space, not a commercial gallery, and to quote their mission statement, “The goal of 500X is to provide a space for artists to exhibit free of outside influences and dealer restrictions.” 500X tried to work with the landlord to figure out how the gallery could still show progressive works while still respecting the space. They refused to meet with 500X members to have a conversation. Do not speak about things you have no clue about. Mrs. Obvious? More like Mrs. Oblivious.

Greg Metz February 25, 2020 - 10:29

Transitions and movement are what all respectable art and artist must endure, learn and be opportunistic about. 500X has been doing that for many years- though in the same place- which is admirable and has been a luxury by many counts, especially when space has become a premium and yes even through such gentrification which we have all experienced. Artists and fluid, vital institutions that remain creatively inspired will live on and being that, 500X will for sure. Agreeing with Christina Rees that the 500X Brand has been well established and will continue where ever it lands. The building will most likely not retain that legacy once gated and sealed. It has performed its dutiful role in that location operating as liaison to the art world for our area’s university programs and cultural creatives- a need that was so much needed in developing and maintaining a dynamic, healthy, cultural ecology. My suggestion would be to do as ‘Project Row Houses’ has done and collectively buy into a permanent space that can live on and subvert the gentrification threats that seem to be the virus of our times for so many. I am sure, judging from its lengthy successful model, sustained interest of artists, collectors and community, along with its rotating crew of visionary membership, there will be will be a continuing way forward for this indelible institution we have long depended on. Let’s put our heads, hearts, hands and resource$ to work- to see that this happens. It’s an essential component of our cultural heritage that needs to live on and seize this opportunity to reinvest in its own stock and that of the greater Dallas Arts Scene- as it was meant to be.

Christina Rees February 25, 2020 - 15:23

Hello all. Greg Metz is referring to the Letter From the Editor I published this morning in Glasstire’s regular Tuesday newsletter, which goes out, via email, to all of our subscribers.

Here’s what I wrote:

Letter From the Editor:

500X is a great name. It looks good in print, too. It will travel well.

The heartless cycle of gentrification is the story of this nation, isn’t it? It’s certainly embedded in the story of art in the U.S, and really the world over. Which doesn’t make it right, but as of this moment, in 500X’s case, it may be better to focus on the solution rather than the problem.

It’s amazing that an artist-run co-op in Dallas was able to hang onto its original address, a building it did not own, for 42 years (unprecedented, in fact, in this country), and while we can and should grieve the loss of 500X’s namesake address, 500 Exposition Avenue, we can also applaud 500X’s current board members for immediately taking hold of this narrative to emphasize that it will look for a new space. The new space won’t be compromised by co-tenants and a landlord who have a problem with what 500X wants to show.

Lawndale Art Center in Houston did it. In 1992, Lawndale, an artist-run space founded in 1979, moved from its namesake address to its current one. Good name, good art space — no matter where it lands.

-Christina Rees

Jim Burton February 26, 2020 - 15:05

Thank you, Christina and Greg, for focusing on the future. As a former board member, the news of 500X’s original site closing saddened me beyond words. My most formative years as a budding professional artist were spent there, and my own blood, (much) sweat, and tears were shed there from 2003-2007. We mourned the loss of close friends there. We celebrated the crazy serendipity of unexpectedly large crowds there. We all cut our art-world teeth there. I’m saddened that my current students won’t get the chance to gain entré into the larger Dallas Art Scene at 500 Exposition Avenue, and experience the rush of seeing their work displayed professionally (for many, the first time) in the building’s impossibly cool patina and rich history.

While I have very strong opinions about the censorship here, and censorship in general, and I have stewed about it for the last week, those machinations aren’t doing anyone any good. As I digested the news and reminisced with colleagues from that time in my life, as we shared our outrage and sadness, I think now what will make this wound start to heal is to do my very best to support the 500X collective and legacy in any material and moral way I can. 500X gave me so much. It gave Dallas so much. Now it’s time for us to give that back a little. I am absolutely positive that the many many members of 500X through the years feel exactly the same.

As well, I know how incredibly hard the board members work, and I would not wish the swirling emotions I’m sure the current members have about this tragedy on anyone. As much as the loss of the building deserves our mourning, the current members deserve and need our support as they embark on this epic hill climb ahead of them. Come on, Dallas. Let’s figure out a way to give back to this institution.

Anonymous February 29, 2020 - 12:35

You speak of celebrating members of the community who contribute to the fluidity and diversity of expression as a natural right? Very well. I’ve patronized and exhibited at 500X myself, and I don’t personally have a problem with viewing shocking and deviant artworks. If you want to have a children-friendly exhibit, or a show for church-going old ladies then by all means go for it. That doesn’t mean the two can coexist harmoniously. In a free market, it is the patronizing and purchasing public that determines the ‘value’ of a commodity, and 500X’s artist-members are now simply faced with a business challenge inherent in any free market enterprise. It doesnt matter that the value of the work in question is being criticized, shunned. The collective members who have spoken out here should embrace, as entrepreneurs, the shifting appeal that is the nature of art, or any commodity for that matter, and adapt. You have that freedom to express yourself where you are wanted, needed, but not necessarily where you are rejected. In the same way that ‘woke’ individuals are outraged about the Robert E. Lee statue, a privately funded object, inner reflection, being the point of much artwork, is perhaps the sentiment most lacking when identity politics is introspectively considered. Not everyone approves of the LGBTQ agenda, and privately funded collectives are no exception. It’s only publicly sanctioned endeavors that are forced on the masses at gunpoint. The Stevie Ray Vaugn statue in Oak Cliff seems a little odd to me, considering the more seminal and noteworthy blues musicians that preceded him, but for artist members of 500X protesting their means of private exhibition access seems self-serving, tyrannical and frivilous, not ‘woke’. And to hear the same from those who feed off the government teet of public funding, ie., college professors, is ludicrous. Go where private individual demand leads you. This is not a backstabbing grab for grant monies. Its a private enterprise, and I support your striving to hold the door open for future expression – in the privacy of your homes and businesses, at your own risk, not that of others who do not wish to share in your voicings involuntarily, or who may be disturbed by having offensive imagery imposed on their otherwise private working or living spaces. Cease causing controversy, bickering and division; go forward and create meaningful outcomes.

Michael A. Morris March 1, 2020 - 11:40

What are you even saying here? First of all, 500x is a non-profit co-op. Why are you trying to impose the language of entrepreneurship and market “rationality” on an expressly non-capitalistic more of organization? That is a form of self-governance that precludes the need for profit, and provides an alternative to the profit motive in art exhibition.

Second of all, are you trying to say that the market ought to dictate morality? Sorry, but that’s bullshit.

Also, nice attempt to silence art faculty by essentially calling us leeches and parasites. You clearly know nothing about how funding for universities works in the neoliberal era. I’d also point out that there are such things as private universities. Keep following your neoliberal capitalist logic and see what kind of aesthetic dessert it leads you to. Your religion of the market doesn’t care about human flourishing, but only the accumulation of wealth. If that logic enforces homophobia, racism, white supremacy, or any other bullshit hierarchy, then it needs to be eliminated from the world.

Kinda Obvious February 25, 2020 - 11:40

You rent you live by their rules
You own you live by your rules

Most people understand this idea. The 500x board obviously did not and now they can deal with the consequences.

George (brian k scott) February 25, 2020 - 15:02

Thanks Mrs. Obvious, for the instructional lecture on self-censorship reminding us all, as long as we have our heads downward the conventional world will let us pass. All of your subjective opinions of the quality of the art involved were offered as facts. I have a lot more to say (not specifically to you, and I mean no offence) on this matter, but I feel I will solidify my thoughts first.

Brian February 25, 2020 - 16:04

Censorship at its finest. The Gibson Company has a shit reputation for a reason. Too bad people support them and their discriminatory policies with hard earned dollars. I’ll say it here and now though: I’ll make sure I never spend a cent renting from this company.

Bill Davenport February 27, 2020 - 09:34

How did 500X last so long if its landlords were concerned with their exhibitions’ contents all these years? There must be more to the story than censorship of this one particular show out of hundreds? Is it Fair Park is getting too pricey for artist spaces? Is there new management at the Gibson Co.? How did they tolerate all 500X’s shenanigans since 1978, and now there’s a problem?

Michael A. Morris February 27, 2020 - 10:25

It would be interesting to go through the co-ops archive to see how many shows featured queer and sexually explicit art and whether there is a record of complaints by the landlord or other tenants. As Ashley has pointed out, the co-op complied with all of the landlord’s demands. It may be that gentrification and the ability to get more to rent that space plays a part (though I’m curious who besides an arts institution is interested in paying rent for hallways and common space…) but even if that’s the case, using this show as an excuse to evict the co-op in order to make higher rent profits doesn’t make it any less homophobic or something other than censorship. Homophobia mobilized for profit is still homophobia.

carolyn March 1, 2020 - 22:27

Fwiw, the land in this area has become a great deal more valuable/potentially profitable than it was in the early days of 500X undergoing a lot of building conversions and new construction; and 500X and CentralTrak (within a couple of blocks of each other) aren’t the only tenants that have been forced out; e.g., there was a styrofoam fabricating company in a building behind CentralTrak that Gibson also owned and that was also forced out.
Renting to artists can be sort of like running a parking lot: you’re basically holding the land as an investment, but you’ve figured out a way to take in enough of an income stream to cover your real property taxes and other expenses and maybe a little extra. But once the land value goes up because of neighborhood gentrification, your taxes and maybe other expenses go up, plus you have the chance to make more of a profit on your land by raising rents, redeveloping it to rent at an even higher rent, or selling it.
So although it seems that homophobia and other factors may have been involved in this case, there are substantial economic factors that would also need be to addressed in order to help artists in these situations.

H Schenck February 27, 2020 - 12:41

I can only speak for when I was a member, winter ’13-spring ’16, but we were constantly having issues that Gibson would refuse to address and then conversely, he would complain and threaten ending our lease for minor instances that could have been solved with communication. It always felt, to me, we were walking on eggshells trying not to be evicted and that the only reason he was keeping us, was because we gave him a bonus check, that required no effort on his part, for otherwise unusable rental space. Issues I experienced included:

-our only sink for paint (except the restrooms) was broken/clogged/leaked/smelled for 2 years/no idea if it was fixed after I left
-heater not working for months during the winter
-work stolen by tenants/guests of tenants with no acknowledgement from management
-tenant’s dog consistently peeing, dripping through the ceiling onto our main floor gallery; Gibson told us not to put work there; I cleaned up dog piss multiple times; issue was never resolved while I was a member
-adjacent grass lot would flood, never be drained, and spawned tons of mosquitos that would infest our space
-we were harassed by a security guard hired by Gibson
-strict open/close hours
-broken front door for weeks on and off; non-tenants could access our space without a key
-censorship of nude drawings/painting
-attempted censorship of language
-constant changing of installation requirements/restrictions not in the lease

And I’m sure, there was a lot more, but I wasn’t in direct communication with him. Personally, as much as this will be a struggle and work, as well as loosing a beautiful space full of history, being free from a landlord who doesn’t care about the arts (or his tenants) won’t be the worst thing that happens to 500X.

Captain Oblivious March 11, 2020 - 10:48

Both 500X and Centraltrak spaces were run by Gibson.
Any relation between the two closing?

Also, real estate market factors could play a part.
Anyone who lived in the condos behind those spaces should know that.
That area is fully gentrified to the max.

Time to think instead of reacting.
Only one capable of doing that in this comment section is Bill Davenport.
We love you Bill.


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