Dallas Art

The serious scene with a down-home spirit

A recent invitation to the Dallas Art Fair piqued our interest initially by the range of 78 participating galleries and artists like Erwin Wurm bringing his "Beauty Business" from the Bass Museum in Miami, and Zoe Crosher creating a site-specific installation of her Michelle DuBois project as part of the simultaneous Dallas Biennale.

While we didn't expect to encounter a domestic event in the scope of Art Basel Miami or New York's Armory Show, Art Fair co-founder Chris Byrne clarified that wasn't the point. "The hope is that by presenting the local, national, and international galleries on an even playing field that the viewer has an important role in evaluating the art on its own terms," he says. After experiencing the fair among a swirl of strong sales, serious parties filled with decked-out Texas-style socialites, football stadium art tours and a glimpse at some serious private collections, we've discovered a Dallas that is, indeed, all its own when it comes to an art scene.

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Dallas Art Fair

With galleries representing cities from Berlin to Milwaukee, New York, LA, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Marfa and Waxahachie, TX, the digestible smaller Dallas Art Fair, held in the Fashion Industry Gallery (or simply the f.i.g. "if you want anyone to know what you're talking about", a cab driver told us), presented a truly eclectic blend of big-ticket classics and new work by unknown artists. We were pleased to see a thread installation by Gabriel Dawe, as well as the 2009 graphite drawings of another thread artist gaining traction, Anne Lindberg, at Chicago's Carrie Secrist gallery. Local Fort Worth Artist Helen Altman had her torch-drawn animal prints on display at Talley Dunn gallery out of Dallas, while New York galleries like Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld Gallery featured Richard DuPont's polyurethane heads and newer work by Ouattara Watts, and Josee Bienvenue featured cut-paper grids by Marco Maggi.

In the three years since its inception the fair has grown with quality, not quantity in mind, boasting this year's solid headliners in and around the fair like Wurm and Crosher, as well as Jacob Kassay, Adam McEwen and Dallas-based Erick Swenson. "There's no grand plan with a push pin map of the art world. The fair starts to generate an organic life of its own with a visual coherence and cohesion as a byproduct of that independent life," says Byrne.

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Goss-Michael Foundation

The long-term relationship of '80s pop legend George Michael with his former partner Kenny Goss, who happens to be a Dallas-based arts patron and former cheerleading coach, gave the city another of its idiosyncratic art contributions. The non-profit Goss-Michael Foundation was founded in 2007 to support British contemporary art and expose a larger community beyond collectors to the works of the so-called YBA movement. Adam McEwen opened his show during DAF, on the heels of an impressive roster that in the Foundation's tenure has included the likes of Marc Quinn, Nigel Cooke, Tracey Ermin, Damien Hirst and others.

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Dallas Cowboys Stadium

When team owner Jerry Jones opened the roughly 3 million-square-foot Dallas Cowboys Stadium in 2009, it didn't come as a surprise that the team's new stomping grounds would become the largest domed stadium on the planet, house the largest HD JumboTron and hold a maximum capacity crowd of 110,000—this is Texas, after all. More surprising was the breadth and depth of its contemporary art collection, and the freedom with which the artists were able to create. The artists were selected by a committee led by Jones and his wife, Gene, the interior decorator for the VIP areas of the stadium, but were given minimal limitations beyond the inspiration of the team's legacy to create their work. The resulting 19-piece collection spans the entire arena, from massive 2D pieces by Ricci Albenda, Terry Hagerty and Dave Muller over main concourse concession stands; to Olafur Eliasson's "Moving Stars takes Time" mobile over a VIP entrance and the aptly titled "Fat Superstar" in the Owner's Club. Lawrence Weiner's "Brought up to Speed" graces a 38-foot staircase wall, while perhaps most on-brand for the Cowboys, coincidentally, are two acquisitions from Doug Aitken that play to the team's star logo.

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Dallas Contemporary

Running simultaneously with the Dallas Art Fair was the Dallas Biennale—a tongue-in-cheek, one-time presentation of works by Crosher, Sylvie Fleury, Claude Levecque, Gabriel Martinez and more at various venues across the city. While we were curious to see Fleury's windows at the flagship Neiman Marcus store downtown, the Dallas Contemporary, where Crosher and Levecque presented alongside Wurm, offered an interestingly offbeat, and physically off-the-beaten-track experience in our art wanderings. Located across some sort of freeway network in what's known as the Design District, nestled on a remote dead-end among gems like the seemingly abandoned Cowboy Bail Bonds and various strip joints, the Contemporary looks like a commercial space that might have a loading dock around the side like its neighbors. Such a spot makes for the perfect intersection of fresh ways of thinking away from the rest of the city's stereotypically oversized or Southwestern-style neighborhoods, uncovering yet another intriguing aspect of Dallas.


Union Wood Co.

Found objects and custom pieces with a vintage industrial aesthetic fill a Vancouver storefront
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Inspired by the nostalgia of old wooden docks, mills and factories that once thrived in Vancouver, Union Wood Co.'s recently opened shop in the city's developing Downtown-Eastside community is a haven for those who covet vintage, repurposed and industrial objects.

After a stint working as a garbage collector, Union Wood Co. founder Craig Pearce discovered his love for things that other people discarded. "I would only buy used clothes. I started collecting things I would find in alleys. I started making things out of old wood. I didn't like anything to be new." What started off as a few pieces for friends quickly turned into a series of contracts to make things for those beyond his social circle. By 2009 Pearce had created a full-fledged business, which recently expanded into a storefront as well.

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The shop not only acts as a source for found objects and antiques, but also produces its own line of products and furniture. On a recent visit we fell for the shop aprons made from rigid denim, hand-cut leather straps and vintage brass hardware. The hammered brass rivets and bolts make the straps easily removable, allowing the aprons to be washed when needed. The online shop also currently features handsome vintage treasures like a collection of one-off Victory Cups you can get engraved and an aged brass marine spotlight.

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Using wood reclaimed from salvage yards and demolition sites, Union Wood Co. also creates furniture pieces that are solid, bold and one-of-a-kind. The company also works directly with clients to produce custom pieces.

Head over to the Union Wood shop to see their current stock, or contact sales[at]unionwoodco[dot]com for custom inquiries.


Bureau of Trade

Flash sale site culls rare finds from the Internet's largest one-off marketplaces Bureau_trade5.jpg

It all started with a search for a pair of whalebones—two of them, between five and seven feet in length—to be mounted on a wall. Michael Moskowitz wanted to display the rare pieces to spark discussion of conservationist efforts, but found them exceedingly hard to come by. With all the flash sale sites around, he was surprised that there remained no options for curating Craigslist and Ebay, the Internet's largest gold mines for rare and one-off finds. So he started Bureau of Trade, a newly launched website for unique items at remarkably low prices.

Currently in beta, the space features around 30 finds per day with plans to up the output to 150 in the near future. Among the treasures are a trillion dollars in Zimbabwean currency (valued at $500), a block of petrified lightning and a 19th-century French fire helmet. Tailoring to the anti-IKEA masses, Moskowitz selects the goods based on what he sees would peak the interest of a discerning collector.

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Moskowitz's background ranges from foreign policy analyst to IDEO designer, but he admits Bureau of Trade is informed by his personal experience searching the globe for rare collectibles. "If you've spent months scouring Bermondsey Market, and continue to hound Brooklyn and Alameda Fleas, travel to Kathmandu for sandalwood neckties, to Tel Aviv for illicit Afghan war rugs (don't ask why they end up there), to Buenos Aires for pure silver goucho spurs from the 19th century, and correspond with teenagers in Tripoli to secure Qaddafi propoganda posters, I think you have at least some small trace of credibility to make a site like this work," he says.

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The site mashes up the tastes of a number of influences: effortless shopping à la Mr. Porter, humorous and informative copy they model on the writing of The Daily Show, visual appeal of Haw-Lin and the sensibilities of Brooklyn Flea shoppers. Succinct and entertaining descriptions limit product blurbs to tongue-in-cheek "suitable for" and "not suitable for" designations. Users can browse by category or world geography, which ranges from "American West" to "The Orient."

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While Bureau of Trade is a free service, users are still asked to register. "We want to keep things exclusive," says Moskowitz. "There shouldn't be three, five or 50 Walrus skin attachés carried around Manhattan at any given time—at least prior to the Mayan apocalypse." In the future, Bureau will offer a subscription service to help customers find specific items as well as alert them when preferred merchandise becomes available.


Recession Art at Culturefix

Aspiring collectors find emerging artists in a new gallery storefront Recession_Art1.jpg

Sensitive to the cash-strapped culture lovers of the world, Recession Art began with the simple premise of uniting aspiring collectors with emerging artists. After three years of shows at Brooklyn's Invisible Dog, they have now opened RAC on New York's Lower East Side. Seated atop Culturefix, an artsy watering hole with adjoining event space, RAC combines a storefront shop with a permanent gallery.

"We wanted to bring together two groups of people we knew personally," says founder Emma Katz. "Artists who were making work but had no way to get it out into the world, and young art lovers who were maybe furnishing their first apartment and wanted access to original artwork." True to their mission, Katz and curator Melanie Kress stocked the storefront with prints and books by emerging artists, along with affordable original works.

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The space has played home to a number of pop-ups over the years, but both Culturefix and Recession Art saw the benefit of a shared venue. "We get people to come into the gallery that might not usually visit an art gallery. Our goal is for anyone to feel welcome here—if you come for a beer or a concert you might end up buying a handmade pop-up book or a photograph. It allows us to work with many kinds of artists including musicians, performers and poets."

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Kicking off things at RAC is an exhibition by veteran Recession Art artist Megan Berk. "Weird Party on the Other Side of the Hedge" shows scenes of Berk's native Los Angeles, the nostalgic dreamscapes tinged with an air of outsider skepticism. A friend of Recession Art, Berk also designed a totebag and limited edition print for the store.

Recession Art plans to continue shows at the Invisible Dog, and are currently taking submissions online for "Everything is Index, Nothing is History," curated by Melanie Kress. In an effort to build relationships with collectors, Recession Art also runs a Collector Club to keep the community abreast of artist activities, studio visits and private previews.

RAC
9 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002


George Kravis

Avid design collector compiles contemporary-history objects

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A consummate collector for more than a decade, George Kravis has cultivated one of the preeminent art collections of industrial design. "I've always been interested in anything with a cord, a plug, a battery or a light," states Kravis. Growing up in a household full of Russell Wright dinnerware and Tommi Parzinge furniture, Kravis' appreciation for design developed at an early age. The purchase of an RCA Victor model record player in 1949 launched the beginning of Kravis' collection and incited a lifelong fascination with the stylish allure of everyday objects.

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Kravis forged a career in broadcasting from the ground up, demonstrating a tenacity and sense of determination evident in his collection. In 1962, he became one of the youngest individuals to own a jazz radio show and later went on to acquire several radio stations. The communications mogul turned radio connoisseur began to amass a selection of vintage radios to form the cornerstone of his collection. "It's pretty representative today of what happened during the Golden Age of radio," says Kravis of the collection, which boasts models such as the boldly iconic Patriot Radio and the shapely Air King Skyscraper radio of the 1940s.

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The thousands of objects Kravis has gathered are mined as much for their value as they are for their personal impressions. "Sometimes I'm trying to fill a hole in the collection," he explains. "Sometimes, I just see something and it jumps out at me. It speaks to me. I know it's the right thing." Culling from auction houses and eBay, Kravis affectionately details a list of his pieces with infectious enthusiasm: "I have sleds, power tools, air compressors, blenders, telephones and typewriters."

Kravis' collection is predominantly a study of the Streamline Moderne design craze that swept Depression-era America in the 1930s—it was a movement based on endowing basic, domestic objects with a sleek, aerodynamic style that belied an optimistic interpretation of the future. Both aesthetically and historically significant, Kravis' collection includes nine of the 12 objects featured as apart of the retrospective stamp series entitled "Pioneers of American Design," which debuted at the Copper-Hewitt Museum in 2011.

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In 2007, Kravis found a kindred spirit in David Hanks, curator for the comprehensive exhibition, "American Streamlined Design: The World of Tomorrow" who now serves as an independent advisor to Kravis. Impressed by the caliber of the show, Kravis contacted the Philbrook Museum to host the exhibition which featured 180 objects from such design luminaries as Norman Bel Geddes and Henry Dreyfuss.

As a Tulsa, Oklahoma native Kravis created a longstanding and integral connection to the Philbrook Museum, serving as a board member since the 1960s. Kravis reflects, "It has been an important part of our social life and our art life here in the community." In 2008, Kravis gifted a portion of his collection to the Philbrook, and it is now on display at a satellite building pending relocation to a new wing (opening in 2012) designed by the renowned architect, Richard Gluckman. An advocate of sharing his collection to educate and inspire students, Kravis states, "I think it will develop a whole new audience."

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Kravis employs an expert eye for the design hallmarks of the past while also looking forward as an Apple product enthusiast and collector of the whimsically elegant products by contemporary design firm, Black + Blum. He underscores the importance of creating products that are "appealing and functional," applauding consumer giant Target and museum shops for making design more obtainable. To predict the standing of good design, Kravis says, "Some things, take a wait and see. It's like listening to a new song. You have to listen to it for awhile to see if you really like it."

Nine objects from the George Kravis collection will be on display as a continuation of the traveling "Stamps of Approval" exhibition, opening at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C. from 15 November-29 April 2012.

This story is part of an editorial series sponsored and inspired by Le Meridien.
New Perspectives explores fresh ideas and distinct points of view in global art and culture.


Stamps of Approval

A celebrated collector brings to life the latest series of USPS commemorative stamps kravis-stamps1.jpg

Philanthropic art collector George R. Kravis II has a penchant for "almost anything with a motor, light, cord or battery." The former radio head's passion for industrial design has led him to amass thousands of objects. Some he used over the years and some he kept in pristine condition, but all are equally treasured.

Tulsa-based Kravis was recently at NYC's Cooper-Hewitt museum for the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Services' latest Forever stamps, a series dedicated to pioneers of American design. Noticing that he owned many of the designs, he offered to loan them to the museum for a small exhibit, now on view through 25 September 2011. Kravis was able to donate eight of the 12 designs, initially curated by veteran art director Derry Noyes.

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Kravis told us his favorite design among the assortment is Norman Bell Geddes’ 1940 “Patriot” radio, which came in red, blue or white base colors. The white was not successful in his opinion, noticing that after several years its brilliancy turned to more of a muted butter color. Kravis also shed light on why Raymond Loewy's 1933 pencil sharpener was not present, explaining the design never moved beyond the prototype stage. "The prototype was put up for auction, and then stolen. They do not know where it is today, but if they put it into production I know a lot of people who would like to purchase one."

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Pulling out his iPhone—complete with black perforated leather case—Kravis showed us an image of his latest obsession, an environmentally-friendly sports car still in development. With his finger on the pulse, Kravis remains one of the most important collectors of art and design, and his enthusiasm for it is contagious.

The "Stamps of Approval" exhibition will be on display for the following ten days, through 25 September 2011 in the foyer of the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt museum for design before traveling on to other cities around the U.S.