Over on Glasstire there is an interesting article on the art installed at Dallas Cowboys Stadium, which takes up a question that was still left open when I toured the facility shortly after the art was installed in early 2010. Ryan Sachetta traveled from San Antonio to watch a game see how the art integrated itself into the average fan’s experience. His answer? Not very well.
The care taken with placement and presentation of these works is museum-quality. Each is ready to be noticed, ready to engage the viewer. But it’s not enough.
It’s not only that the art, much of it bold and accessible, is competing with high-tech wonders like the Largest Television in the World. Sachetta goes on to look at the cost of going to a Cowboys game, and how fans laying out big bucks for food and football are unlikely to feel compelled to spend their precious time in Jerry Jones’ “spaceship” glaring at art.
While bringing cutting-edge contemporary art to a new audience is commendable, there’s nothing remotely populist about this superficially populist gesture. It feels more like a justification for increasing ticket prices than something that is supposed to possibly inspire and engage visitors.
There is one corollary point Sachetta leaves out about Cowboys Stadium that may actually help explain its art problems. Cowboys Stadium is a terrible place to watch a football game. I have been frequenting the “Death Star” this year for a D Magazine article, and I happened to be at the game Sachetta attended. The House That Jerry Built is designed to maximize sensations of comfort and bedazzlement. It lulls screaming fans into timid complacency. It reduces football and art alike to incidental sideshows. To stand in Cowboys Stadium’s monstrous inside-space is to be in its own kind of outside, its own Babel-like microcosm that scatters and confuses, dilutes and diffuses until all you’re left with, as Sachetta eloquently captures in his piece, is the game of taking photos of photos on the giant big screen. It is a self-reflexive feedback loop that produces a dizzying substitute for a real sense of place; it is a false world, a spaceship that transports you to a banal kind of nowhere. It is without a doubt both fascinating and nightmarish to visit.