The Nasher Sculpture Center is a manifestation of Raymond and Patsy Nasher’s vision for an outdoor 'roof-less' museum - a peaceful retreat to enjoy both art and nature. Their goal was achieved with airy indoor galleries that visually expand to an enclosed outdoor sculpture garden.
Set in the Art District next to the Dallas Art Museum, the building is yet another Texas tip-of-the-hat to the Kimbell Museum and Louis Kahn: architect Renzo Piano's long walls of creamy Italian travertine outline five long parallel pavilions, each topped with barely-there barrel vaulted ceilings.
Cranes shown in the background were busy covering the nearby freeway to create an Art Park, which was specified over thirty years ago as part of a sixty-eight acre master plan.
What a treat to visit during an exhibition of works featuring Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.
The 'museum without a roof' was achieved through an innovative custom design: delicate glass panes are suspended on top of narrow steel ribs and supported by thin, stainless steel rods in the barrel vaulted ceiling. A cast-aluminum sunscreen device, specifically designed for the project, floats above the glass. Because the individual sunshade apertures face due north to block direct sunlight, controlled natural light is allowed to filter into the galleries, most often eliminating the need for artificial illumination. Brilliant!
Begun in 1950 with pre-Columbian art purchased on a trip to Mexico, the Nashers expanded their collection exponentially over the next thirty years to include Modern and young living artists. Mr. Nasher liked to rotate pieces in his commercial real estate developments, including Northpark Center, which to this day combines mall shopping with gallery hopping. By 1987, the Nasher Collection had gained international recognition and was one of the first exhibitions in the Dallas Museum of Art’s new downtown building. Subsequent exhibitions of the collection followed in Washington, DC, Madrid, Florence, and Tel Aviv, prior to settling in its new home.
Three central pavilions on the main floor serve as galleries that flow from one to another, while the outer two pavilions house offices and public spaces.
The lower level features an additional gallery for light sensitive sculptures, and....
....an indoor auditorium - which could have easily been cold and confined - that ingeniously opens up and onto an outdoor terraced garden.
I was introduced to the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz in the 1970's when I was studying fiber art and was awestruck by her gigantic woven sisal Abakans, (get it? Abakan-owicz), huge installations that dwarfed her, and luxurious rope weavings. She later moved on to burlap and resin figures, which are an obvious precursor to her cast figures here in Bronze Crowd.
The huge Richard Serra has plenty of room to breathe in the outdoor space, and a fun title: My Curves Are Not Mad.
Delicate tree trunks are lightly embraced by Jaume Plensa's bronzes with musicians' names embossed on them. When I read George Gershwin's name, I absentmindedly started humming Rhapsody in Blue, then couldn't get it out of my mind for the rest of the afternoon. Oh, the power of art!
Aristide Maillol's Night (La Nuit) looks good in the daytime too. I love the blue ceramic water installation and didn't get the artist's name. If you know, please do share it in the comments below.
Rush Hour by George Segal and below right, Joel Shapiro's Untitled.
Jonathan Borofsky's Hammering Man. Says Borofsky: "My goal is to have several different Hammering Men placed around the world-all working simultaneously. Other big outdoor versions of this work are in Japan and Europe. In the U.S. there are Hammering Men sculptures in New York, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Washington D.C., among other places. It is a concept which helps to connect all of us together and yet gives each specific Hammering Man site the potential for its own personal interpretations."
Mark di Suvero's romantically entitled: Eviva Amore is perfectly placed to visually tie the low, one story museum with the towering skyscrapers surrounding it. (The Crow Collection of Asian Art is housed in the building directly behind/above.) Just down the street outside the DMA is another di Suverro, painted orange as they often are. That would have been too overpowering for the other sculptures and peaceful nature of this locale.