Dallas Art Fair reaches the five-year marker this spring. Where to begin to navigate the 80-plus booths brimming with cutting-edge fare from the must-see artists you need to know? Catherine D. Anspon engages in a national and international tête-à-tête with four game-changers, whom touch down next month from Milan, Paris and L.A. Why are they coming to Dallas? Read on. (Save these Fair dates and prepare to collect: Preview Gala, Thursday, April 11; Friday through Sunday, April 12 – 14; at Fashion Industry Gallery; dallasartfair.com.)
Esther Kim Varet
Founder, owner and director, Various Small Fires, L.A.
Take us to the beginning. After graduating from Yale University in 2004, I worked for major New York City galleries like Petzel and Paula Cooper before opening my own gallery at the age of 24 in a ground-floor space in West SoHo. While running the gallery, I was also doing a full time Ph.D. in contemporary art at Columbia University (which was a bit much, to be honest!). I sold my shares in the gallery right before the recession hit in 2008, which saved my life — and bank account! It was an incredible learning experience. I still continued with the Ph.D. and started curating and fund-raising for biennials in New York, started a company that built corporate collections in Asia and started collecting art myself.
I moved to Los Angeles two years ago because all of a sudden the world started watching the young art scene in Southern California with much invested interested. And it was absolutely true — there are so many amazing artists out here, and the city was so welcoming for ambitious new spaces that were willing to provide a fresh platform for artistic talent.
Texas connections? I born and raised in Dallas and spent K-12 (in uniform!) at Trinity Christian Academy. When I was a senior in high school, I had one summer where I interned at Pillsbury Peters Fine Art in Dallas for one month and then PaceWildenstein Gallery in New York for the other. Boy were they different! I learned invaluable experiences from both, and from then on — I guess I always knew I would be a part of the gallery system in one way or another. Although I have not been a resident in Texas for a while, I did go back to my roots and got married at Houston’s Rothko Chapel and had a reception at The Menil Collection. My husband and I are also huge fans and supporters of Fairfax Dorn and Virginia Leberman of Ballroom Marfa. Because of warm art-world Texans like them, I do find more reasons to travel to the Lone Star State several times a year.
Also, a critically acclaimed performance artist I represent, Liz Magic Laser, is doing a solo commission project in Houston at DiverseWorks. She has been interviewing local Houston politicians and TV anchors as part of her project — the final product will be unveiled at the DiverseWorks opening on April 6.
Your gallery’s aesthetic, and what niche it occupies amid the art ecology of L.A? Because of my long-term affiliation with Performa, the performance art biennial in New York — I used to chair their young patrons program, as well as occupy a Curatorial Fellow seat — there was a lot of buzz around the gallery and the performances we hosted last year. However, I think people are also increasingly realizing that I am really out there to push the best artists working in all mediums, including painting, video, sculpture and installation.
What drew you to participate in the Dallas Art Fair 2013? Going back to my hometown, of course! Although my parents live in Hawaii and Seoul now, I still do have close family in Dallas that I am itching to see.
Can you reveal any surprises for your Dallas Art Fair booth? Which artist(s) will you be bringing? Anna Sew Hoy, one of the most beloved California sculptors of her generation, and she possess an incredible touch. We will be bringing these incredibly beautiful “wall sculptures” that hang like paintings but double as functional objects. For example, we will have a ceramic piece that looks like a gigantic hanging charcoal plate that doubles as a place to hang your keys in your home entryway (if you choose).
When adding new artists, what are you looking for? Seeing a place for them in history. Another litmus test for me is that the artists I end up working with — I find that I could talk about the artist endlessly. I feel so convinced and excited about the work, it never actually feels like work. It feels like I’m sharing an awesome discovery with the world, you know?
Will you be expanding your roster in the future? Yes. For example, my gallery has just started working with Roy Dowell, a canonical Los Angeles artist who founded Otis’ [College of Art and Design] graduate program in the late ‘70s. He has been making these fantastic collages and paintings since the late ‘80s that feel so fresh and relevant to a new generation of artists as well.
True tales from the art world? Running an art gallery in which every rotating exhibition poses a new challenge — there are so many hilarious and ridiculous moments. Where do I start? I collaborate very closely with my artists, so every show seems like a totally memorable experience.
Founder, owner and director, Anat Ebgi, L.A.
Take us to the beginning. Being a daughter of an artist who ran his own very successful art gallery has informed a lot of my choices. I grew up in Miami and moved to New York City to study at the New School. I was curating exhibitions in various galleries before receiving my master’s degree from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. I was working with a lot of artists in NYC, and when I moved to Los Angeles in 2008, I wanted to continue working with them, so I opened the gallery.
Biggest break? [Being admitted into New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA)] was a definitely a huge break. But the most memorable experience was placing Jesse Fleming’s video The Snail and the Razor in the Whitney Museum’s permanent collection.
What drew you to participate in the Dallas Art Fair 2013? I’m excited about Dallas! And to introduce Jay Stuckey, who’s as big and bold as Texas. For the Fair, I will be presenting a solo booth of Jay Stuckey’s recent drawings and paintings. Jay is currently working on a series of drawings of musician friends smashing their instruments.
Your gallery’s aesthetic: What niche does it occupy amid the art ecology of L.A.? Young and smart. For more dish with Anat Ebgi, tap papercitymag.com.
When adding new artists, what are you looking for? I am always looking at artists’ work, visiting their studios and Web sites. The “fit” comes in working closely together, which is my style. I speak with the gallery artists almost every day, and see them on a regular basis. Because of this, I am quite slow to expand the roster, but am always open. A sense of humor is key.
How does the scene compare in L.A.’s Culver City versus your previous space in Chinatown? The gallery has been in Chinatown for four years, and I was ready to explore another part of this massive city. Recently moving to Culver City has made me feel closer to the wonderful community of galleries, my friends and colleagues. Moving to a more central location has created an opportunity to expose the gallery artists to a broader audience.
Co-founder, co-owner and sales director, Brand New Gallery, Milan
Take us to the beginning. Fabrizio [Affronti] and I met at university where we both studied the History of Art. We shared a strong passion for art and our dream was to open an art gallery — joint efforts, and here we are!
Vision? To exhibit international artists in Italy for the first time. Our objective is to contribute to the renovation of the Italian art scenario, bringing new artists in Italy, informing and sensitizing the public.
What drew you to the Dallas Art Fair 2013? Dallas Art Fair is a renowned international art fair. Our intent at this point of our career is to build up an important audience made up of collectors, press, fans and trend followers. We are keen to grow and augment our visibility and contacts. We strongly believe Dallas Art Fair can help us carry out our mission.
Can you reveal any surprises in your booth? We cannot reveal our secrets or there will be no surprises left! I can tell you we will be bringing Ori Gersht, Folkert de Jong and Anton Henning. For more from Milan, visit papercitymag.com.
When adding new artists, what are you looking for? We travel very much and try to keep up with the rapidly changing art scenario. Our objective is to be informed and always up-to date. We try to support market trends but we do look for innovation and avant-garde artists. We don’t want to passively chase but rather disclose trends.
How do you and Fabrizio divide up the duties of the running an international gallery? Both us work directly with the artists and follow them directly. We have divided the artists amongst us so that they have one main referent to talk to. I tend to establish and maintain relationships with international collectors, while Fabrizio deals mostly with Italian collectors.
Must-see exhibitions and travels for 2013? This is the year of the Venice Biennale, an un-miss-able appointment. I believe all [the Biennale] exhibitions should be seen because they are always enriching experiences. Similarly there are millions of places I would like to visit but I mainly travel for working purposes so I will most certainly be in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris and Brussels.
Who came up with the name Brand New Gallery, which reflects a welcome dose of humor and optimism amid the high seriousness of today’s art world? Was that your intent? It was my idea. Of course this was my intent, optimism and a good dose of humor are essential nowadays.
Co-founder, co-owner and co-director, New Galerie, Paris and New York
Take us to the beginning. [Marion Dana] and I met 10 years ago in Rue Louise Weiss in Paris, which was then a very interesting place, where galleries like Air de Paris, Galerie Jennifer Flay, Galerie Perrotin, Art Concept were developing something all together. We developed a desire for collaboration from this time forward. Marion had been working first for museums, then for Galerie Kreo, for an important French collector and for Sotheby’s. I have a more curatorial and academic background.
What drew you to the Dallas Art Fair 2013? The Fair’s co-founder [Christopher Byrne] contacted us and explained what he wanted the Dallas Art Fair to be and to become. We found it very interesting. Our gallery friends who have already participated also told us the Fair is very good. Since we opened our new space in New York, we think it is important to discover more of the USA. In this sense, we will have participated this year to fairs in Miami, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas. It is also interesting to discover these different cities and cultures.
Can you reveal any surprises for your booth? We are going to do a solo presentation by a duo of French artists: We Are The Painters. Since the beginning of the gallery, we have only done solo or duo presentations in art fairs. It seems to us that it gives a clearer purpose to the artist and the gallery. It also offers us, we think, a more fruitful discussion with the visiting public who can approach a significant body of works. We Are The Painters are developing a specific project for the Dallas Art Fair.
Texas connections? It will be the first time we will be visiting Texas. We have, however, some clients here. We are looking forward to discovering more about the people and the city. Then Marfa, the Dallas Museum of Art and a number of private foundations are famous, but we not visited them yet.
What do you consider the role of fairs towards fostering an international art dialogue? Fairs are interesting in the sense that they create a temporary community: with the local public, with other galleries, with collectors and institutions. More than contacts, you get to spend time with people and their environment.
How do you and Marion divide up the duties of the running an international gallery? As we now have two spaces (one in Paris, one in NYC), we have decided to each spend around one month in NYC and one month in Paris. We want to balance a European and American approach and programming. It was also important for us to have a permanent presence in the USA, and we are very happy to have started to work with Franklin Melendez who is going to collaborate with us there.
Your gallery’s aesthetic: What niche it occupies amid the art ecology of Paris? The gallery has always had an invitation and collaboration policy. It mixes a program featuring artists it represents with invitations to curators and other structures: Francesco Stocchi in 2009, ICI in 2010, Claire Staebler in 2011, Koyo Kouoh and the Art Center she runs (Raw Material Company, Senegal) in 2012. In 2013 in NYC, the curator Chris Sharp and the artist Benoit Maire will curate for the New York space, and the curator Martha Kirszenbaum and the gallery owner Andreas Huber for the Paris space.
These questions of trying to define how a gallery works have always been at the core of the program. A certain number of other young art entities share this interest in Paris. But it is also an ongoing question that the important galleries keep asking. The gallery started being hosted by a major French gallery: Galerie de France. We did one exhibition out of two there, before taking our own space. We have invited Galerie de France’s owner, Catherine Thieck, to do an exhibition with us in our New York space, centered around a major classical photographer: Gisèle Freund.
When adding new artists, what are you looking for? Is your stable mostly European? The artists we work with have very different styles. We try to work with artists who develop a very specific (or personal) oeuvre. There are some trends however, as most of the artists we work with tend to question the format of an artwork and what it means to be an artist nowadays (through collaboration, specific documentation, interaction with different social fields, etc.). We work in similar proportions with European and American artists.
Must-see exhibitions and travels for 2013? We will go to the Venice Biennale, which we always find interesting, because of the main exhibitions, the different national pavilions, and the major exhibitions displayed by private foundations during the time of the Biennale. Aside from major exhibitions, we tend to follow specific spaces we like or respect, like friends’ galleries, artist-run spaces, etc. It is very interesting to see how a program unfolds with time.