[Originally published in FD Luxe; Portrait by Nan Coulter]
Talley Dunn Gallery is smartly located in a large and immaculate compound adjacent to Dallas’ swankiest enclave, Highland Park. It is somehow fitting, then, that the gallery building used to be the stage for Ferrari renovations; the floor is still stained with paint that missed the fenders of the toniest automobiles. (It looks mildly abstract.) The choice of location and building is certainly brilliant. In fact, everything Dunn touches smacks of strategic wizardry, including her penchant for educational sessions that include artist talks and discussions for students and adults alike. Hers is not just a stellar gallery: It is a place of affability and learning.
An integral part of this educative process involves Dunn’s selection of personnel, who interface on her behalf with a vertiginously upscale and intelligent clientele. Her foremost aide-de-camp, gallery director Beth Taylor, was formerly employed by collectors Fred Baron and Lisa Blue and art heavyweight Howard Rachofsky — she was his collections manager — which offers testament to Dunn’s superb navigational skills. (Dunn admits that snagging Taylor “was a coup.”) Taylor is savvy, smart, enormously well-informed about gallery fare and, perhaps most importantly, indefatigably polite. She is a native of Ohio who studied anthropology as an undergraduate at Kenyon College, about an hour north of Columbus, which included a stint going on digs in Nicosia, near Cyprus. (She points out the irony of the name of the archaeological site. “You know,” she says, “like Nic Nicosia,” one of Dunn’s superstar artists, “only it’s pronounced differently.” This is indicative of Taylor’s thought process. The site and the top photographer are linked immediately as homonyms.) After time at the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum in Washington, D.C., where she also sharpened her insights as a highly informed political aficionado, she went on to excel in graduate work in art history at Southern Methodist University. Taylor began interning at the now-closed Gerald Peters Gallery, while Dunn was working there as its director; that’s when the two met and initially worked together. In 1999, Dunn co-founded her gallery’s first incarnation, Dunn and Brown Contemporary, with Lisa Brown. In 2011, Brown left to become an art consultant; that same year, Dunn hired Taylor as director of the rechristened Talley Dunn Gallery.
Most recently, Taylor pulled out the stops by curating “Ex Libris,” a group show featuring several stars in the Dunn stable. Taylor thoughtfully points out that ex libris “not only means ‘From the Library of,’ it also indicates something ‘prior’ or ‘before.’” (She manages to interject Latinate information without it becoming a stuffy, pinkies-up interlude.) The pun was worked out marvelously well via the show. It was beautifully formulated to evoke nature with the prints of Julie Bozzi and offered the equivalent of books-as-cleavage in the gorgeous photographs of Xiaoze Xie. (They speak volumes, as it were, of a fondness for leather-bound tomes and the feel of toothy paper.) Add Joseph Havel to the mix and you had a veritable celebration of verbiage and how we interface with letters, books and ideas. Vernon Fisher, with his penchant for verbal play, was also prominently featured, as was Matthew Sontheimer. “Ex Libris” evolved into a splendid rumination on a world we may be on the brink of losing. “It celebrated the pre-digital world,” Taylor says. It did, indeed, and Taylor fondly describes the experience of “paper and card catalogs and the luxury of stacking books and sitting in a beautiful space.” It was a gorgeous and defining moment of her past to which she paid resonant homage.
While this was a grand achievement — it wasn’t just a good show, it was an important one — Taylor is moving into the future. She reels off names of artists having upcoming exhibits at Talley Dunn Gallery — Sam Reveles, Robyn O’Neil, Vernon Fisher, Melissa Miller — and why she enjoys their work. The best seems yet to come from the director who proclaims the names of her favorite New York galleries and films from the ’20s and ’30s with as much ease and assurance as that roster of compelling artists, whose works will surely thrill and resonate where Ferraris once did.