Linda Smith, Contributing Writer
As some friends and I wandered into the Nasher Sculpture Center in the Dallas Arts District, we noticed that there was not much inside. Indeed, the most interesting thing was the ceiling, an “egg crate” layer that allows only indirect sunlight to enter the room. This layer added to the peculiar vastness of the building. I was a little leery of this new place, thinking it was still under construction and would not be complete for some time to come; as it turns out, they were making room for the exhibit currently there, Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective.
We next stepped out into the beautiful sculpture garden and were immediately mesmerized by sculptures weighing tons, all placed strategically about the lawn. Some were whimsical and colorful, like Joan Miró’s Caress of a Bird and Scott Burton’s Schist Furniture Group – three “pieces of furniture” that are not only the only sculptures you can touch, but also sit on – while others carried powerful messages, like Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Bronze Crowd and Mark di Suvero’s For W.B. Yeats.
We spent more than an hour at the museum, ending by enviously looking at all of the finery in the gift shop. I was surprised that I’ve been to the Dallas Museum of Art multiple times and have never heard of the Nasher Sculpture Center. According to the Nasher Center’s website, Raymond and Patsy Nasher procured their first sculpture, Ben Shahn’s Tennis Players, in 1954. By the mid-‘60s, they owned more than 150 pre-Columbian sculptures. They continued collecting works by famous artists and donating their pieces to art museums.
In 1997, Ray announced his wish to construct the Nasher Sculpture Garden next to the DMA. In 1999, the Renzo Piano Building Project was commissioned to design the building, and Landscape Architect Peter Walker & Partners was commissioned to collaborate on the design of the outdoor garden in 2000.
After construction began a year later, the museum finally came to fruition in October 2003. Two years later, Raymond died, leaving behind the precious haven for his beloved sculptures as a gift for the Dallas community.
I must say that I’m glad my friends and I made an afternoon out of it. The Nasher was free on the afternoon of Groundhog, and will be free again on March 2, this time with the Ken Price exhibition inside.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., with $5 admission for students with a valid student ID. Located at 2001 Flora St., adjacent to the DMA and near the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the Nasher Sculpture Center is a niche worth visiting in the artistic haven of Dallas.