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.