A Visit to the Trinity Antiques District in Dallas

I know of several cities that have “antique districts,” but none seem to have the mass of the Trinity Antiques District in Dallas. A map handed to us at the first stop, a higher-end mall called Lost…antiques, lists more than thirty shops and more than forty points of interest, including UPS and several restaurants. Time didn’t permit visiting them all, however.

Comparing what’s available in the Dallas area to finds in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, generally the merchandise weighs heavily on English and secondarily French imports. Most of what’s on display in Dallas seems to have arrived on containers from Europe. One shop, Lots of Furniture, offers a large selection of brown, carved furniture, mostly oak circa 1890-1910. While I did yearn to find more things American, the fact that it has to warrant traveling the Atlantic generally helped maintain a minimum quality level.

Mid-Century modern also seems just as popular here as it is in New York and elsewhere. Much of this merchandise has local origins and an easier point of entry into a shop (since it doesn’t have to be shipped). Several stops in the district cater to the 20th Century furniture crowd including Collage and Lula B’s. The later is a recent addition to the district and will re-celebrate its opening March 19 with live music, libations and food.

There were a few American pieces from before the mid-century modern period to be found, including a bookcase and carved center table in Lost…antiques and an empire chest here and there. Still I wonder why the tastes in Dallas lean so far to the other shore when in not so far away New Orleans mahogany, most of it 30-70 years older, demands a great premium over oak. It was explained to me that buyers in Dallas go for a look—they aren’t collectors, at least not in the numbers found elsewhere.

I’m not sure to what extent that’s true. For antiques, as I understand them anyway, what they are is at least equally important as how they look. Perhaps it’s a distaste for the big Northern cities like Philadelphia, Boston and New York that accounts for the prevalence of European furniture, combined few local objects being produced before 1900 compared with say Kentucky or South Carolina. I could be off on that statement, but these are just general observations made when knowledge of antiques and collecting in Texas is in its infancy.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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