In One Day, Dallas Loses Two Cultural Figures: Kim Dawson and Ted Pillsbury
Late last night word spread that Kim Dawson, the model-turned-modeling-agency brand name, died at the age of 85 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Dawson, of course, is credited with having discovered and cultivated many a household name, among them Angie Harmon, Janine Turner and Stella McCartney. (Though, as Texas Monthly recalled in 1997, in 1970 "fourteen-year-old Jerry Hall of Mesquite is rejected by Dallas' doyenne of modeling, Kim Dawson, because she is 'too tall and too outrageous-looking.'")
This morning, Dallas mourns yet another major contributor to our cultural landscape: Ted Pillsbury, who, for 18 years, was director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, and, later, brought new life and renewed renown to the Meadows Museum at SMU. For the last several years, Pillsbury has been chairman of the department of fine art at Unfair Park across-the-street neighbor Heritage Auction Gallery, whose spokesman, Noah Fleisher, confirms that the 66-year-old died of a heart attack yesterday.
"He was on his way back from having lunch with a consignor, and I think he may have been on his way back to our office when it happened," says Jim Halperin, co-chair at Heritage. "It's quite a legacy. At the beginning, I used to have lunch with him two, three times a week. We'd walk to the Stoneleigh P when he was building the fine arts department, and he built that and the museum services department from scratch. He recruited great teams. And ..." He pauses.
"I'm a little emotional about it," Halperin continues. "I thought we'd be working together the next 10 years. He was very young for his age. He was always riding his motorcycle around, would walk with us and never get out of breath. We used to call it the death march, walking from Heritage to the Stoneleigh P. I'm in pretty good shape, and I used to have trouble keeping up with him. I guess you just never know.
"But, as I like to say, he was a rock star. And did you he was offered the Getty and instead he wanted to stay in Dallas? That's how we got him. Actually, his longest tenure anywhere, except the Kimball, was at Heritage, almost five years. And he was fearless."
In her December 1999 profile of Pillsbury for the paper version of Unfair Park, this is what Annabelle Massey Helber had to say about the man:
Every time you run into Pillsbury -- giving an art lecture at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, narrating some exhibition's audio tour at the Kimbell, writing commentary in art catalogs, cruising local art studios for undiscovered talent --you get a consistent, and consistently impressive, impression. As you realize that his alleged arrogance is really only savoir faire and that he comes by his sophistication honestly -- thanks to a blue-blooded family, an Ivy League education, and top-of-the-art-world professional experience -- you change your mind about wanting to knock him off his high horse. You decide you really want something else. You want to establish a camaraderie with this guy -- get him on your level, get him to let his hair down. And, let's face it: You want the former director of the Kimbell Art Museum, former private consultant to Steve Wynn's let's-bring-the-Louvre-to-Las-Vegas Bellagio Hotel, and the last, best hope for the top commercial art gallery in Dallas to be some guy you can relate to.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.