On any given day in Dallas, you can saunter in to Gerald Peters Gallery on Fairmount Street and buy a small Picasso painting for $1.25 million, or pick up a sofa-sized David Bates at Dunn and Brown Contemporary for around $80,000. At the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art, you can see and acquire all manner of works by top Texas artists, and, at 500X, the city's leading cooperative art space, you can "discover" an emerging art star and make a shrewd investment--buy low now, sell high 10 years from now. This city boasts the encyclopedic collection of internationally acclaimed works at the Dallas Museum of Art, plus interesting work at smaller, specialized museums and art spaces. Yet, when tourists and art aficionados outside Dallas come looking for art, they're more likely to head west from the big airport in their quest. Fort Worth's Kimbell Art Museum, recently expanded Amon Carter Museum and new behemoth Modern Art Museum in the pedestrian-friendly Cultural District give Cowtown an artful advantage. Until Monday.
After Monday, Dallas should finally get its props on the national, if not international, art stage with the opening of the four-acre Nasher Sculpture Center downtown on Flora Street, just west of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and the Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, and one crosswalk east of the DMA. Dallas' dreams of an accessible, spend-the-day arts destination within a distinct and well-known arts district will likely be realized with the opening of what is being touted as "the only museum in the world devoted to the exhibition, study and preservation of modern and contemporary sculpture." Even the barely art-literate will swoon over the roster of artists represented by 300 three-dimensional pieces that will rotate through the new museum building and adjacent grounds--Calder, de Kooning, Rodin, Matisse, Picasso, Serra, Segal, Miró, Giacommetti. And come Monday, there will be plenty of congratulatory backslapping to go around--nods to city planners, arts professionals, enthusiastic citizens and supportive local arts patrons. But Dallas' big dream might come true primarily as a result of the lifelong, dedicated passion of one man.
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Raymond Nasher and his late wife, Patsy, began collecting sculpture in the 1950s and over time acquired this private, museum-quality collection that has been shown occasionally in select museums around the world. Nasher made his fortune in real estate and spent a bunch of it buying art. It's easy to be cynical when take-no-prisoners tycoons start collecting art--to assume the motivation is strictly another investment strategy. But Nasher, at 81, who will be present at the ribbon-cutting and opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. Monday, has expressed great personal sentiment for the works he and his wife sought out and purchased and revealed a proud benevolence in creating a stellar public venue for sharing it. Nasher took a hands-on approach to the concept for the sculpture center and demonstrated perfectionist tendencies in selecting the architect for the building, Renzo Piano, and the landscape designer for the outdoor sculpture gardens, Peter Walker. He enlisted the Nasher Foundation's Elliot Cattarulla and the DMA's curator of European art, Dorothy Kosinski, for the project and hired Dr. Steven Nash to run the show. These and many others will be recognized in a free preview program and lecture onstage at the Meyerson at 2 p.m. Friday.