Can Dallas support two art fairs? For most people the answer is yes.

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this thursday dallas art fair (DAF), which was launched in 2009, will welcome VIPs in its 2024 edition. Same day, and right across the street, new dallas invitational Its second edition will open at Fairmont Hotel. The Invitational, which has only 14 exhibiting galleries (compared to DAF’s 91), is the latest boutique art program to stake a claim to a major fair. As such, it describes itself as being “created from a conversation between galleries, collectors and curators”. For founder James Cope, Dallas-based owner of And Now Gallery, it’s a recipe for quality.

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“It’s always quality over quantity. It’s a fair in itself, but I really see it as a platform for like-minded galleries to come together,” explains Cope. ARTnews, “We’re all either friends or we share artists, so there’s a real kind of collegial philosophy behind it.”

Undoubtedly, this translates into context the mantra of excellence through collaboration with the art world. Returning to the Invitational include Hannah Hoffman and Lomax Galleries. Meanwhile, longtime DAF exhibitors like Night Gallery and Various Small Fires have jumped at the invitation this year. Cope says he had enough applicants that he could expand his fair if he wanted to. “We were very interested. I think we could easily double or triple the size,” Cope said. “But I want to take it slow. This meant that it was an event that took the Gramercy International Art Fair in New York as its inspiration before actually becoming professional and turning into the Armory. [Show],

Context, according to several dealers who asked to remain anonymous to protect business relationships, DAF has been in decline since co-founder Chris Byrne left the fair in 2017, allowing real estate developer John Sughrue to take over as president. Has been left as is.

“Chris understood the art world,” said one dealer. ARTnews, “He used to have a gallery. He was a businessman. He really understood what the galleries wanted. The branding and vision for the Dallas Art Fair all came from him.”

It was under Byrne’s leadership that Rome’s Galleria Lorcan O’Neill and London’s Modern Art Fair joined forces, boosting its international profile and further expanding its reach. 30 participants in 2008 and up to 90 a decade later, Byrne’s departure followed what he called at the time “the pinnacle of achievement”: the partnership of top global galleries such as Lehmann Maupin, Skarstedt and Gagosian. Although none of those galleries are on board this year, the fair continues to attract international participants such as Galerie Max Hetzler and Perrotin.

Byrne’s departure from DAF may have been a reason for the invitational launch last year, but dealers pointed out ARTnews The real spark was the cancellation of the DAF in 2020, due to what were described at the time as “pandemic-related restrictions.” At the time, DAF refused to refund exhibitors’ fees already paid, an unwise decision, as the cancellation occurred after they had already postponed the fair from April to October. canvas Newsletter. DAF told ARTnews At the time it was “not in a financial position to issue cash refunds to our dealers” and instead planned to offer counterpart credits to exhibitors for “future fairs”. A spokesperson for the fair said some galleries have used the credit, though he would not confirm which galleries or how much.

A group of 34 galleries, including Gallery Lelong & Co. in New York, Carlos/Ishikawa in London, and Barry Whistler Gallery in Dallas. sent a letter to Sughru Demanding “substantial refunds”, noting that both Art Basel and Frieze refunded exhibitors for canceled fairs. DAF called the equivalence “misguided”, saying it is “a small, independent business, and our revenue base is lower than that of many of our participating gallerists.” For many people that explanation was not satisfactory.

“Sughru already has walls with art hanging on them. He owns the building,” said a Dallas-based art dealer. “They don’t have a big team like the Freeze. Where did all the money go?”

While hotel fairs have been running for several years, one of the invitational’s new exhibitors is another Dallas native Hannah Hoffman (she is the daughter of the late Dallas mega-collector Robert Hoffman, and stepdaughter of Hoffman’s widow, Marguerite Hoffman, who also continues to be involved) her collection), told ARTnews, such fairs are especially appropriate for Texas. The city’s collector base is unusual in that they purchase near the end of the fair rather than on the day of preview, he said, thanks to the slower-paced Southern “style of appreciation.” The shopping frenzy on preview day induced by sending advance PDFs, which marks most other fairs, is not prevalent there.

“What James has been able to do is reinfuse that sense of adventure into the art world,” Hoffman said of the Invitational. “There is too much art fair saturation, and even at the exhibition level there is saturation. The smaller format makes the galleries more experimental and gives visitors the chance to discover something on a more intimate level than at a traditional fair.

It also certainly helps that while participation in the DAF starts at around $11,500, the cost of showing in the Invitational is just the fee required to finance the gallery’s hotel room. And Cope has probably reserved a block of them at a discount.

The Dallas Collection Circuit is also unique in the level of value it places on participation “within its ecosystem,” explained Stefano De Paola, senior director of the New York and Los Angeles-based gallery Anat Abagi. ARTnews, “They really like the people who are spending time and really participating in Dallas and Texas [art] The scene itself. For them it’s really about primal experience and physical connection.

Despite some galleries with long histories at the original Dallas fair being moved to the Invitational, DAF Director Kelly Cornell sees the new fair as a boon for the city.

“Since its inception in 2009, the Dallas Art Fair has been a catalyst for the growth of Dallas as an international cultural destination. Additionally, we have benefited from Texas’ explosive population growth,” he said. ARTnews In an email. “We believe a rising tide lifts all boats and we wish the Dallas Invitational well.”

Yet some people are put off by the invitational’s highbrow undertones. One dealer called the venture “elitist.” Another said that by starting a new fair like Felix in LA, but designed for exclusion rather than a fun option, it is perpetuating an unhealthy art market by creating the ‘exclusive’ environment that exists in the first place. Allows flipping and catering to those checklist investor types.”

Charlie James, whose namesake Los Angeles gallery will be showing at DAF, said ARTnews Regardless of what people think of the invitation, “the more we can attract to the city, the better.”

“It’s more action for everyone. If you feel the need to differentiate yourself a little bit and make yourself rare, that’s fine by me,” he said. “Everyone gets a little light from the comet’s tail.”

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