Art Collector Questionnaire

Ahead of the Dallas Art Fair, Four Locals Offer a Peek Into Their Texas-Sized Collections

Most dealers who are preparing to hit the road for an art fair seem preemptively exhausted. (In conversation, there are a lot of loud exhales.) But those headed to the Dallas Art Fair are uncharacteristically upbeat. Over the years, the event has gained a reputation as a genuinely fun, unpretentious hub for new art and deep-pocketed collectors who are open to experimentation.

Similarly, the town’s many private art collections, sometimes showcased in foundations and local exhibition spaces, range from the blue-chip to the eclectic. As members of the public flock to this year’s edition of the Dallas Art Fair (through April 7), meet four collectors who bring distinct approaches to the scene.

Alden and Janelle Pinnell in front of a work by Vojtěch Kovařík. Publications on table from The Power Station. Lamp by Marcelo Suro. Image courtesy of the Pinnells.

Alden and Janelle Pinnell

What makes the Dallas art scene unique?

In many ways the Dallas art scene is similar to other large cities across the United States. There are excellent public institutions, commercial galleries, and private collections. What makes Dallas unique is the way private collectors and philanthropists collaborate and cooperate in creative ways to make a multifaceted and vibrant scene. For example, there are privately funded initiatives that are open to the public that all play very different but complementary roles. There is our initiative at The Power Station, as well as the Warehouse, the Green Family Foundation, and Site 131, to name a few. Each has their own specific focus but cooperate and support one another. 

What was the most challenging piece in your personal collection to acquire?

Gaining access to great works is always a challenge for collectors. Early on, we recognized that it is an advantage if you have an appetite to deal with challenging, difficult and/or large work. There has always been a lot of competition for domestic size paintings but not as much competition for very large paintings, sculpture, and installations. A benefit of living in Texas is that there is space to accommodate large artworks. Some works in our collection that fall into these categories are ambitious works by Donald Judd, Trisha Donnelly, Sherrie Levine, Steven Parrino, Ed Ruscha, Mark Manders, Oscar Tuazon, and Lucas Samaras.

Artwork by Sherrie Levine. Image courtesy of the Pinnells.

Which work provokes the most conversation from visitors?

We currently have a cor-ten steel box by Donald Judd installed in our gallery at our home. Each quarter we are rotating in one work from the collection to pair with and contrast against the monolithic sculpture. The pairings have been quite diverse and an interesting way to revisit works from the collection and have spurred a lot of conversations.

How did the story of your personal collection begin?

Alden: My mother was an artist, educator, and curator of a nonprofit contemporary art space in North Carolina. In high school, I began collecting photography as well as North Carolina-based artists who were my mother’s contemporaries. I continued collecting after college, but it gained real momentum when I met my wife Janelle and we moved to New York in 2005. I became a trustee of the Dia Art Foundation and joined the board of the Dallas Museum of Art as well as supporting a number of other local arts organizations such as the Nasher Sculpture Center, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and the Dallas Contemporary.

In 2011, we moved back to Dallas and founded The Power Station, where we currently are hosting a project with Vojtěch Kovařík. Over the last 13 years, with the help of Rob Teeters and Gregory Ruppe, we have worked with over 40 artists to realize site-specific exhibitions in the unique industrial architecture of the former Dallas Power and Light Building.

Sheryl Adkins-Green with the works 8 Obama Cowboy by Knowledge Bennett (Left) and untitled by Sandile Anthony (Ashar) Mhlongo (Right). Photography by Austin Hunt. Image courtesy of Adkins-Green.

Sheryl Adkins-Green

What makes the Dallas art scene unique?

The Dallas art scene is very collaborative. Artists and gallerists support each other, they promote each other, and they work together to broaden and engage the diverse art community in Dallas.

How did the story of your personal collection begin? What is the first piece you ever bought?
My interest in collecting evolved from my love of music, particularly jazz. I used to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival every year, and I fell in love with works of art that celebrated jazz. The first original painting I bought was a painting of Billie Holiday by Sebastian Maltais, titled Under the Protection.

Which work provokes the most conversation from visitors?

8 Obamas by Knowledge Bennett is one of the first works that people see when they enter and it always prompts a conversation about President Barack Obama’s eight years in office. Another work that generates a lot of conversation is Return to Source by Austin Hunt. The appearance of the painting shifts depending on how it is viewed. Each person sees and feels something different.

Sheryl Adkins-Green with works by Deborah Roberts (Left) and Sebastian Maltais, Under the Protection (Right). Photography by Austin Hunt. Image courtesy of Adkins-Green.

What is your ideal Saturday afternoon in Dallas?

My ideal Saturday afternoon in Dallas would start with an artist conversation in their studio, followed by meeting a friend to explore a new exhibit at one of the many museums in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

What was the most challenging piece in your personal collection to acquire?

The most unique work in my collection is a sculpture by Xxavier Edward Carter. It was challenging to find a safe way to transport the components, particularly the assemblage of individually crafted, very fragile ceramic discs that were strung together on a delicate piece of African cloth. 

Portrait of Kaleta Blaffer Johnson by Francisco Moreno. Image courtesy of Johnson.

Kaleta Blaffer Johnson

How did the story of your personal collection begin?

My collecting and love of art has always been inspired by my great-grandmother, Sarah Campbell Blaffer, who was an avid patron of the arts in Texas. I’m honored to serve on the advisory board for the Blaffer Art Museum, which she founded in 1973, and my cousin Abigail Owen-Pontez and I recently co-chaired the museum’s 50th anniversary gala this past December. 

What is the first piece you ever bought?

My first piece was a print from Anton Ginzburg’s “Hyperborea” series. Anton had the most incredible exhibit at the 2011 Venice Biennale that was supported by the Blaffer Art Museum and took up two floors of the Palazzo Bollani. His sculptures, photographs, paintings and videos followed his three-part journey from the American Northwest to St. Petersburg to the Soviet Gulag prison camps on the White Sea in search for the mythological land of Hyperborea. The ancient Greeks described Hyperborea as “a place of pure bliss, perpetual sunlight, and eternal springtime” located somewhere near the North Pole, and Anton’s journey in search of it was fascinating and captivating to me. 

Anton Ginzburg, Hyperborea #22, 2011. Image courtesy of the artist and Johnson.

Which work provokes the most conversation from visitors?

One of my favorite artists and dear friend Francisco Moreno drew a portrait of me that hangs in my front hall. Visitors always love discovering that it’s me as soon as they walk in. Originally from Mexico, Francisco is well known in Dallas especially for his large painting installation The Chapel and Accompanying Works, which is part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s permanent collection.

What is your ideal Saturday afternoon in Dallas? 

On the perfect Saturday afternoon, I would start with a visit to Dallas Contemporary to see their latest exhibits—"Patrick Martinez: Histories" is opening this week alongside the group exhibition "who’s afraid of cartoony figuration?" Then I would pop around the corner to Riverbend to see what Hannah & Hilary have showing at 12.26 as well as what’s on view at Erin Cluley Gallery, Cris Worley Fine Arts, and Conduit Gallery. After a full afternoon of art, I would end up at the Charles across the street from Dallas Contemporary for a crisp glass of wine and a bite of their fabulous lemon ricotta gnudi.

Is there an artist or gallery you have your eye on ahead of the Dallas Art Fair?

It’s so hard to anticipate what my favorite pieces at the Dallas Art Fair will be because I always make so many discoveries as soon as I walk through the doors. I am excited for the debut of Tureen, a new gallery in Oak Cliff founded by two former Blaffer Art Museum board members Christopher Scott and Cody Fitzsimmons. I always love to see what McClain Gallery brings up from Houston and what Perrotin brings down from New York!