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Screw the Art Gods, Museum Tower Sure Is Pretty

Screw the Art Gods, Museum Tower Sure Is Pretty

Funny how you can drive by a thing a dozen times and never really see it. An early morning errand today took me through the north end of downtown on the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. I looked up from traffic and was stunned by the sheer beauty of the new Museum Tower building.

Just ahead of me the 42-story glass-wrapped oval column soared up into the morning sun like an immense geyser of glittering blue water. Designed by Scott Johnson, the tower is another movement in a very long symphony of glass in Dallas going back at least into the late 1970s. Is it the light or is it us? Dallas just does love to sparkle.

Oh, I know, I know, I'm not supposed to be saying nice things about Museum Tower. It has offended the art gods. It must be pariah. You know all about that.

Museum Tower, a ritzy condo building, is the one that reflects too much light onto the Nasher Sculpture Center, according to the Nasher Sculpture Center, which is a temple of the art gods. Because it has offended the art gods, Museum Tower is always to be spoken of with disdain and opprobrium by us in the media, who are the janitorial staff of the art gods.

Fortunately this does not apply to me, because I work for a branch of the media well known to be art ungodly anyway, but for many of my brethren in the ink-stained ranks, a carelessly positive word about Museum Tower could easily earn a place on the next list for a major reduction in force. And so it's all finger-wagging and frowns from most reporters.

I'm just saying it's a beautiful building. That's all. Look, maybe it does reflect too much light. What do I know? I'm not a lightologist. All I'm saying is that I looked up from the freeway and ... wow! It's gorgeous.

How much of that beauty is marred forever by the reflection contretemps and the wrath of the art gods? Well, you know, 100 years ago when I was young, I was a reporter in Detroit, and I used to go out to this wonderful old island park in the Detroit River called Belle Isle. I am ashamed to say that I sometimes drank beer during working hours out there, often sitting on the lip of a marvelous 1920s fountain that had all kinds of fish and cherubs and Neptune himself spouting water at each other. It was laughter in stone and water.

Not far off was a life-size statue of some old dude sitting in a chair staring at the fountain. I went over and looked at it one day. It was a likeness of the benefactor who donated the money for the fountain, a guy named Jim Scott.

So finally after hanging out around the fountain for years, I decided to look up Jim Scott and see who he was. It turned out he was a rich and infamous playboy, a notorious gambler and frequenter of whorehouses who donated the fountain as a way of flipping the bird to the respectable folks of Detroit.

There was huge controversy over whether his gift should even be accepted and the fountain built. A Roman Catholic bishop spluttered, "Only a good man who has wrought things for humanity should be honored in this way."

But it got built. Time marched on. The controversy was forgotten. Eventually Jim Scott was forgotten -- history's forgiveness. But the fountain is still there, tinkling like a merry xylophone in a city that could use a good joke once in a while.

This morning I thought of that fountain for some reason as I sped by Museum Tower. In fact I could swear that just as I passed into the tunnel beneath deck park, Museum Tower winked at me.


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