Despite its status as the principal art museum in a city of considerable wealth, the rather modest permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Art is proof that either North Texans don't collect much great art or they don't donate it on a grand scale to local institutions. One notable exception to that rule is Raymond Nasher, one of the world's foremost collectors of contemporary sculpture. A local businessman, by way of New York, who made his banking and real estate fortune in Dallas (with the shopping mall NorthPark Center, among other properties), Nasher decided, after years of being wooed by the Dallas Museum of Art as well as such major institutions as the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to establish a public sculpture garden in his adopted city. The $50-million project was entirely funded by the private Nasher Foundation.
The Nasher Sculpture Center opened in 2003 on a 2 1/2-acre site adjacent to the Dallas Museum of Art, in a glass-and-marble structure infused with natural light, designed by the renowned architect Renzo Piano. The center should change the way art aficionados think about Dallas and make it an art destination. The collection, which includes high-quality pieces by virtually all of the great modern masters and was amassed over 4 decades by Ray and his wife, Patsy, is considered by some art experts to be the finest private sculpture collection in the world. The tasteful 54,000-square-foot center, a place of quiet refuge in downtown Dallas, features an outdoor sculpture garden landscaped by Peter Walker, with pieces from Nasher's immense collection exhibited both indoors and out. The collection includes some of the finest individual works from the likes of Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Joan Miró, David Smith, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, Richard Serra, Mark di Suvero, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Joseph Beuys, Roy Lichtenstein, and many others. Among the monumental pieces in the open-air museum, there are too many highlights to mention, though James Turrell's "skyspace" Tending (Blue) perhaps deserves special recognition as a site-specific piece commissioned for the museum. At the back of the garden, near the bathrooms, it is a walk-in box open to the sky, with optical effects and an unexpected perspective. One of the newest acquisitions in the Sculpture Garden is Jonathan Borofsky's 2004 Walking to the Sky, which depicts seven life-size figures defying gravity and climbing a 100-foot pole that reaches toward the clouds. Although the Nasher Sculpture Center -- which has some of the biggest names in art and architecture attached to it -- opened with big publicity and truly ought to be one of Dallas's most highly prized treasures, it has had some difficulty attracting visitors, especially locals. In an attempt to draw a wider range of potential art lovers, the museum is now free on the third Thursday night of the month (6-11pm), when it stages "salons" on topics of popular culture and urban living and opens up the N Bar, with cocktails and DJs spinning tunes. Among a smart, cultured set, it's becoming a hip downtown thing to do on Thursday nights. If you're at all a fan of modern art, or even of contemporary architecture, don't miss the opportunity to see this spectacular museum.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Very Highly Recommended 2010