Julian Schnabel, Heidi Klum Celebrate the Sixth Annual Dallas Art Fair

Mei-Chun Jau

Never-before-seen works on paper by Joan Mitchell and mesmerizing architectural wall pieces by Syria-born artist Diana Al-Hadid were among the event's highlights.

The Dallas Art Fair wrapped up its sixth annual edition Sunday -- its largest yet with 94 participating galleries, including healthy New York, Los Angeles and international contingents -- in what has become an anchor to a week of art-related events throughout the city.

The fair opened April 10 with a preview gala benefiting the nearby Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center as well as the Dallas Contemporary. Amidst the clinking champagne flutes and Dallas society chatter, interest in the art for sale, which ranged from the low four figures to more than $600,000, was palpable.

The fair began in 2009 with 30 galleries, so the 2014 edition represents a tripling of its original lineup. This being Dallas, co-founders Chris Byrne, a private art dealer, and John Sughrue, a real estate developer, have willed their enterprise into something that is, if not Art Basel Miami Beach or Frieze New York, at least another interesting stop on the increasingly crowded calendar of international art fairs. Dealers reported good sales.

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Standouts included Syria-born artist Diana Al-Hadid’s mesmerizing architectural wall pieces, in particular Down With Venice, 2013, which was Artsy’s most viewed work of the fair. Shown by L.A.’s OHWOW gallery, the wall-mounted pieces (priced at $45,000) and related works on paper are clear relatives to Al-Hadid's well-known and often very large sculptures. “Dallas is a city with fantastic private collections and a real hunger for contemporary art,” says Mills Moran, managing director of OHWOW, which also showed work by Lucien Smith, Kon Trubkovich and Nick van Woert. It was only Moran’s second trip to the city and the gallery’s first outing at the fair. His rationale for coming was simple: “Our goal was to expand our collector base in the city,” he says, adding that, “sales have been incredibly strong with the majority of the work in our booth sold as of Saturday morning.”

OHWOW co-founders Aaron Bondaroff and Al Moran also brought their online radio station, Know-Wave, which usually airs from New York, to Dallas for the fair, supplanting the Commes des Garcons Play store at the Joule Hotel in downtown Dallas. The station -- with what press materials described as its “standard no-standard format” -- allowed for special guests such as artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel to drop by and talk live, and also re-created it’s OHWOW Book Club, with an interior design by Architecture At Large’s Rafael de Cardena, who did its original West Village boutique design.

Other notable works exhibited were German-born Anke Weyer’s large, brightly colored abstractions (in the $15,000 range) -- from New York’s Canada gallery, located on the Lower East Side -- which also sold briskly. And up-and-coming British artist Neil Raitt's oil-on-canvas Alpine series (approximately $14,000 each) at London-based Hus gallery sold out by the first day. Scott Reeder’s brightly colored acrylic paintings with stenciled text -- “Post Cat,” “Cops Kiss” -- shown by New York-based Lisa Cooley gallery also were popular (priced at $3,850), with Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing purchasing a few. Reeder recently had a major show at the downtown L.A. venue 356 S. Mission Rd.

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But the highlight of the fair wasn’t a contemporary work but small works on paper produced in the mid-1960s that had never before been exhibited. They were created circa 1964 by seminal abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell, whose critical reputation -- and auction prices -- have grown significantly in recent years, after too little attention during her lifetime. As a woman working in a field dominated by big male personalities (and contemporaries) like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and because she lived much of her adult life in France, Mitchell -- and her work -- while well-known in the art world, nonetheless was somewhat undervalued until well after her death in 1992.

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, c. 1964, 10-1/2 x 8-1/4", charcoal, watercolor, oil on paper, courtesy Lennon, Weinberg Inc., New York Copyright The Estate of Joan Mitchell


Three small works of charcoal, watercolor and oil on paper, roughly 8 ¼ x 10 ½ each, were produced during a particularly dark period in Mitchell’s personal and professional life, soon after her move from New York. The pieces, intense, seemingly bottomless pools of darkness with occasional splashes of color, are from Mitchell’s estate and were priced at $75,000 each (at least one sold). They were displayed by the New York gallery Lennon Weinberg Inc., which will open a larger exhibit of Mitchell's works on paper May 8 through the end of June, with a subsequent catalog to be published. 

“They have never been exhibited before. At the time Mitchell made this work, abstract expressionism was sort of winding down. She wasn’t living in New York. She wasn’t really thriving in her gallery relationships in France,” says gallerist Jill Weinberg Adam, who worked personally with Mitchell beginning in the late 1970s;

“These are not studies for paintings -- they are sort of a parallel body of work,” she says. “And it was not typical of Mitchell or indeed many of her contemporaries at the time to show their works on paper…. So it’s work that was entirely unknown until her estate was inventoried and archived and distributed. She died in 1992 [but because of various disputes] it took until 2004 for the property to be distributed to the beneficiaries.”

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Among the fair's other events were a pair of high-profile openings at the Dallas Contemporary, which presented 15 recent monumental paintings by 1980s bad-boy artist and feature film director Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Before Night Falls, Basquiat)  -- his first museum show in Texas since 1987 -- and a vast array of Richard Phillips’ hyper-realistic paintings of Lindsay Lohan, Dakota Fanning, Sasha Grey and George W. Bush that address what the Contemporary calls “the complex web of pop theme in our media-saturated world.”


Outside the museum is Phillips’ controversial 40-foot-tall sculpture, Playboy Marfa, with a neon-lit bunny, which the media company paid for; it was originally installed on Highway 90 outside the remote West Texas town and art destination of Marfa. That is, until last summer, when the state of Texas deemed it a work of advertising and therefore illegal.

New York curator and art scene fixture Vito Schnabel, the artist’s 27-year-old son, and his new girlfriend (he and Demi Moore dated in 2012), supermodel Heidi Klum, 40 -- clad in above the knee Christian Louboutin boots -- could be seen making out in the gloom of the gallery, as Vito's father led a group around explaining his new work.