Here’s a look at big moments in visual arts as we celebrate the highs, lows and uh-ohs of the departing decade in Dallas culture, 2010-2019.
‘Dior’ ousted ‘Mexico’ (barely), but ‘Tut’ reigns supreme
The Dallas Museum of Art enjoyed a series of milestones between 2010 and 2019. Its presentation of “Dior: From Paris to the World” (2019) emerged as the highest-attended ticketed special exhibition of the past decade. It also ranks as the sixth highest-attended ticketed special exhibition in DMA history. Not only that, it wowed the critics. The Dallas Morning News labeled it “a jaw-dropping fashion art exhibition,” with critic Rick Brettell adding the salsa: “If ever there were an exhibition about aesthetic spectacle at the DMA, this is it.”
Attendance exceeded (though not by much) another popular show from the past decade, “México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde” (2017). “Mexico” was the second-highest-attended exhibition of the decade and ranks as the eighth-highest in DMA history. Both the “Dior” and “Mexico” exhibitions happened under Agustín Arteaga, who himself represents a decade high point: Arteaga became director in 2016.
As for the highest-attended ticketed exhibition in museum history, that one still remains “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.”
The ‘Eye’ has it
If you blinked in late summer of 2013, you might’ve missed the installation of a three-story eyeball on Main Street. Multimedia artist Tony Tasset’s sculpture Eye stands 30 feet tall, looking out over a bed of grass that on most days remains gated off from the public. A few days a month, the lawn hosts weddings, events, workout classes, picnics and — you guessed it — social media photo shoots. Headington Cos., in collaboration with the Nasher Sculpture Center, acquired the large-scale artwork to mark the renovation of the Joule Hotel, a luxury hotel that contains some of downtown’s swankiest bars and restaurants. Like the hotel, Eye served as a harbinger of development in the Central Business District, which this decade has seen an influx of hotels, bars and public spaces, many of which are primed for the unblinking lens of Instagram.
An artist destroyed his own Dallas exhibition
Confusion, panic, the sound of objects shattering. It had been a routine (if unusually well-attended) art opening at Dallas Contemporary on a Saturday night in 2015 when the chaos began. French conceptual artist Loris Gréaud had hired actors to pose as rioting patrons and destroy the sculptures in his new solo exhibition “The Unplayed Notes Museum.” Guests were ushered out into the safety of the parking lot. The act of destruction itself and resulting debris was, in fact, the actual artistic statement. As stunning as the whole incident was, the real jaw-dropper came later. A Dallas art critic penned an unfavorable review and was told by the artist in a series of despicable Facebook messages that she needed to do some studying and get a boyfriend. The exchange drew national press attention, and he later thanked her for the publicity.
Homegrown arts initiatives put Dallas on the international map
While the rest of the art world was focused on the usual suspects, Dallas was busily poising itself to become one of the hottest (and perhaps somewhat unexpected) international contemporary art destinations. The Dallas Contemporary underwent a transformation with a new building, new director, new curators and a new globally attuned vision. Artists Shane Pennington and Joshua King founded Aurora, a new-media event that transforms the city into an interactive wonderland of light and sound. The Nasher Sculpture Center announced the creation of the Nasher Prize, which at $100,000 is the world’s biggest prize for sculpture.
The Dallas Art Fair celebrated its 10th anniversary and opened 214 Projects, presenting year-round exhibitions and programming beyond the annual April fair. And the granddaddy of all Dallas art events, Howard and Cindy Rachofsky’s Two x Two for AIDS and Art, hit the 20-year mark and raised a record $9.3 million in 2018. At a grand total of $92 million raised, the auction is the largest annual fundraiser for both amfAR (the Foundation for AIDS Research) and the Dallas Museum of Art, showing that collectors can have hearts as deep as their pockets.
Kusama’s ‘Pumpkins’ flooded our Instagram accounts
You don’t often see the words “infinity mirrors and glowing pumpkins” in the same sentence. But you could revel in the combination in 2017 when the Dallas Museum of Art opened the smartphone crowd-pleaser “Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins” by the 88-year-old Japanese artist. The DMA show proved to be a sensation, despite allowing visitors only 45 seconds inside and two at a time to see 62 acrylic yellow pumpkins covered in black polka dots.
The story of a painting — starring Leonardo da Vinci, Trump, Russia, the Saudi crown prince and Dallas — had us obsessed
One of the most bizarre stories of the past decade unfolded at the Dallas Museum of Art. In 2012, its then-director, Maxwell Anderson, tried to persuade his board to purchase a painting by Leonardo da Vinci titled Salvator Mundi. For eight months, it sat on an easel in a carefully guarded storeroom. Back then, the painting carried a price tag of $125 million, which the DMA board agreed to pay, making an offer of $80 million in cash, with other proposed options adding up to the purchase price. Two of the three New York art dealers who owned the painting agreed. The third did not.
So, the deal was nixed. And from there, it got really weird. Today, the painting’s journey reads like the plot of a John le Carré thriller that connects the dots from the Russian seller of the painting (who bought it after the DMA could not), to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump.
Finally, in 2017, the painting was auctioned off for a record $450.3 million, making it the most valuable artwork ever sold. So who made the winning bid? The Saudi crown prince, who bought it from the Russian oligarch, and who today keeps it on his yacht, where only his friends can see it.
Artists went underground (literally) and got creative about space
The 2010s brought a resurgence in DIY energy. Alternative spaces, collectives and pop-ups seemed to creep into every available North Texas apartment, storefront and warehouse, galvanizing the local artistic community with a renewed sense of purpose and presence. While many of the original venues (Oliver Francis Gallery, Beefhaus, CentralTrak) have since shuttered, and collectives (Homecoming! Committee, Art Beef) have disbanded, at least one (the Reading Room) is still standing, and one (Culture Hole) is still firmly planted 6 feet underground. Founded by artists Gregory Ruppe and Jeff Gibbons, Culture Hole is only accessible one night a month, when visitors descend a small metal ladder to sit shoulder to shoulder in a defunct cellar, accompanied by anything from an artist making omelets to order, to the stuffed corpse of a mule, to an immersive video projection. That some of the most ambitious and experimental art in Dallas takes places in a 44-square-foot bunker is proof that bigger isn’t always better.
Sources from: The Dallas Morning News