When an art event grows from 1,500 attendees to more than 50,000 in just a few short years, you know it’s something special. The biannual Dallas-based Aurora exhibition tends to be so epic, it’s co-founders couldn’t possibly create something on that scale without a bit of a rest.
So, to keep the momentum going in a slightly less stressful way, creative director Shane Pennington, executive director Joshua King, and Dallas Arts District founding executive director Veletta Forsythe Lill are dialing it back a bit for “Prelude,” a free two-night preview held this Friday, October 21, and Saturday, October 22, from 6:30 to 11 pm.
“Bringing 50,000 people down there last year was a surprise to us,” King says. “It’s a huge growth we’ve been handling every year since 2010, and last year was just unbelievable. It’s a great problem to have, so we’re trying a multiple night format. We’re always looking for the next thing to keep Aurora being special.”
Formerly called “Glimpse” but renamed “Prelude” for this edition, the event will still focus on the world-class talent Aurora is known for, this time curated by the likes of the Dallas Contemporary’s Justine Ludwig, as well as Berlin’s Nadim Samman and New York’s DooEun Choi.
The 10 participating artists hail from everywhere — from Denton to Mumbai — and two ultra-high-definition art installations by London-based artist Quayola are the centerpieces of a more compact footprint. Quayola’s digital painting Pleasant Places filmed in Provence and digital sculpture Matter based on Rodin’s The Thinker will be displayed this edition on the I.M. Pei-designed Meyerson Symphony Center.
“We normally do our large project on the Wyly Theater, but this time we shifted it to give it a new canvas,” King says. “It’s an adaptation of a piece he’s shown before, but he gets to change it to fit different scales and different places.”
King says the less obvious works are equally important, citing a piece utilizing magnetic ink by Dallas’ own Tramaine Townsend in the AT&T’s Performing Arts Center cafe and Alicia Eggert’s takeover of the VIP art bar with a video installation as must-sees for the event.
Says Eggert about her work The Future, “[It] intentionally simplifies complex issues by representing things like peace and conflict as binary on/off states, which they are not. Our intent is to instigate a conversation about these issues, so that people can start working together to make the future brighter.”
Heady stuff to digest along with a cocktail, but then that’s why Aurora is the thinking man’s art party. “Prelude” will definitely be a contemplative teaser for the full-fledged experience promised in 2017.
“Next year we’re looking for expanding geographically as well,” King says. “There’s too much beautiful architecture in the city of Dallas not to explore where art would work. You get to a spot where you can’t top yourself, but we’re always looking for that next thing to keep Aurora special. The key goal is to just keep evolving this and make it extraordinary every year.”
Aurora also features performances by Brave Combo (October 21) and Larry g(EE) (October 22) at 6 pm in Strauss Square. A ticketed “Prelude Lights” fundraising preview party takes place October 20, 7 to 11 pm.