Dallas Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2013

In every city there are a number of worlds.These worlds exist side by side yet operate under very different conditions; they serve different economies, demographics and politics. Perhaps most importantly, each of these worlds produces it’s own truth about art. With this in mind let us propose a pavilion that can contain a cross section of art worlds, a pavilion where the city is experienced through the material spaces and conceptual structures that shape our understanding of what art can be.

In April 2011 Jaspar Joseph-Lester and Michael Corris began to explore the idea of curating a city pavilion for Dallas.The venue for this substantial exhibition would be the 2013 Venice Biennale. Needless to say, the starting point for this long-term curatorial project was not the art object or the artist/concept solo exhibition. In contrast to the traditional national pavilions that flower in Venice every two years, this exhibition would be a city pavilion that would take the material form of a book. Our goal was to provide a preliminary inventory of the material and conceptual conditions nurturing contemporary art in Dallas. The Dallas Pavilion was therefore required to display autonomous locations in addition to the urban mythology, power dynamics and complex social relations that give the city its particular identity.

For two years the Dallas Pavilion developed through dialogue with a group of Dallas based artists, curators, designers and writers. We began by looking at ways to curate a snapshot of events, locations and situations that influence the way art is conceived and experienced across the city. The aim was not to produce a guide or index of the Dallas art scene but rather to reflect on both the abstract and physical structures that help to sustain the cultural life of the city.The term Dallas art space was left open to interpretation; nominations included motorway intersections, cars, lecture theatres, exhibitions, events, shopping centres, offices, video festivals, galleries (past, present and temporary), museums, private art collections and unrealized proposals for large scale land art projects. From the outset the Dallas Pavilion was intended to stand as an imaginative cross-section of the many art worlds that exist within the context of a single city.

The Dallas Pavilion builds on the work of previous city or location-specific interpretations of national pavilions, on various projects that treat the book as an exhibition space but perhaps most importantly this pavilion actively plays on the way local identities are exported as a global brand.The work exhibited on the following pages both affirm and oppose a dominant image of Dallas, we may be seduced by the big sky, bling fashion and luxury department stores but we know very well that this image of Dallas culture is highly constructed, commercial and deeply conservative. How then do the various art spaces that help to determine the production of contemporary art function critically in ‘Big D’? What is the relation between the pervasive global image of the city and the local art spaces that produce culture? How is location embedded in the thinking and creative output of Dallas artists, curators, educators, museum directors and critics? These questions have emerged as the overriding concerns that shape this printed pavilion. Each of the sections in this book speaks of the complex relations between the machines of culture that operate throughout the city and the various truths they produce about art.

The creation of a platform for dialogue is hardly a radical gesture in the context of an international biennial exhibition. For the artists, critics and exhibition organizers of Dallas, however, the instantiation of artistic practice based on collaboration and public discourse may very well be novel and transformative.

— excerpt from introduction to The Dallas Pavilion (Dallas, TX: Free Museum of Dallas Press, 2013)



Jake Cigainero, “In Venice, Dallas Makes an Inconspicuous Entry Into Art World Surreality” (June 17, 2013)

Paula Newton, “The Dallas Pavilion: Photos in Venice and the Real Thing at Home” (May 30, 2013)

Peter Simek, “Part Prank, Part Promotional Piece, a Dallas Art Book Infiltrates the Venice Biennale” (May 29, 2013)