One of the museum’s inaugural exhibitions, The Evolution of the Nasher Collection showcased seminal works by Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Henry Moore and others, drawing from the collection built over the course of 50 years by the late Raymond D. Nasher, museum founder and namesake, and his late wife, Patsy. Rather than recreate one of the many past exhibitions of works from the Nasher Collection, Nancy Hanks Senior Curator Sarah Schroth introduced the Nashers as collectors. Paintings and sculpture that had adorned the Nashers’ modernist home in Dallas were publicly shown at the Nasher Museum for the first time. The Nashers’ interest in other cultures led to fine purchases of ancient American, African and Oceanic art. The exhibition demonstrated the balance the Nashers had been able to achieve: early modern work, art of the post-war period and contemporary sculpture were all well represented in this exhibition, as were abstract and figurative sculpture, monumental outdoor pieces and intimate indoor works, in a wide variety of media.
The complete Nasher holdings tell the story of the formation of a great sculpture collection, informed by other interests – a personal approach achieved through the remarkable synergy of a married couple with intellectual courage and inquisitiveness, who together, until Patsy Nasher’s death in 1988, agreed upon certain acquisitions that eventually formed “The Raymond D. and Patsy R. Nasher Collection.” From 1989 until his death in 2007, Raymond D. Nasher continued to enhance the collection, often blending his sculptural patronage with architectural commissions because he believed art “uplifts the spirit” of all who experience it.
Visitors to the Nasher Museum can still enjoy works from the Raymond D. and Patsy R. Nasher Collection throughout the Great Hall and on the front lawn, on loan from the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas.
Raymond D. and Patsy R. Nasher did not start off collecting sculpture; rather, they were first interested in the New York art world and American artists of their parents’ generation. Through the guidance and friendship of Edith Halpert, one of the first female gallerists in New York, whom they met in 1954, they acquired early American modernist works on paper, paintings and one sculpture, which adorned their modernist home in Dallas and are publicly shown here for the first time.
In 1963, an unexpected passion took hold of the Nashers when they visited Teotihuacán, Chichéén-Itzá, and other ancient American sites in western and central Mexico. Excellent examples of the more than 188 works they acquired in the 1960s are shown along with two other parallel passions, Navajo rugs and early 20th-century Guatemalan textiles. The Nashers’ interest in other cultures also led to fine purchases of African and Oceanic art.
POP AND CONTEMPORARY ART OF THE 1970s
Patsy Nasher’s adventurous spirit and intuitive ability to recognize new talent was illustrated by selections from pop and contemporary artists of the 1970s and ’80s. On view were commissioned portraits by Andy Warhol of Patsy Nasher and her three daughters; a painting she purchased directly from Jean-Michel Basquiat; and a series of Jasper Johns prints, the ink barely dry when she bought them. Many of the works chosen were a testament to Patsy Nasher’s close relationships with living artists, who had great respect and affection for her. This was the period following the astounding success of the Nashers’ development of NorthPark Center, the award-winning complex of stores, restaurants, cinemas, a bank and offices in North Dallas.
FOCUS ON SCULPTURE
The first work of modernist sculpture acquired by the Nashers, Jean Arp’s Torso with Buds, purchased in 1967, was included in the exhibition. In the mid- 1980s, the Nashers made the conscious decision to collect only sculpture, adding to previous acquisitions by filling in gaps and by concentrating on collecting key artists in depth. For this section of the exhibition, both directions were represented by seminal works created by Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, David Smith, Mark di Suvero and Carl Andre, among others. The installation of these masterpieces extended from the pavilion gallery into the Great Hall, the south terrace and outdoors, and was arranged in roughly the order in which they were acquired by the Nashers, to convey a sense of how the collectors’ “eye” was increasingly refined over time.
IMAGE: John Chamberlain, Williamson Turn, 1974. Painted and chromium-plated steel. Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas. Photo by J Caldwell.