Thursday, January 27, 2022 Jan 27, 2022
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VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE AMERICAN ART establishment, not to mention museums in England and Europe, had been vying for custody of the world’s greatest privately held sculpture collection. Last year Raymond Nasher, almost inexplicably, decided-not to give it to Dallas-but to make Dallas its home.

Certainly the Dallas Museum of Art by itself didn’t have that much to offer in comparison to rivals such as the National Gallery in Washington D.C., or the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco. But the citizens of Dallas realized what The Nasher Collection could mean to their city and last spring offered to raise the estimated $32 million needed to house the sculpture collection at the DMA,

Thanks, but no thanks, was Nasher’s response, who preferred to have things his way. The collection will be housed in a sculpture garden paid for by the new Nasher Foundation, the collection will be cared for by the Nasher Foundation, and all decisions regarding the collection will be made by the Nasher Foundation.

So why should Dallas be grateful for this non-gift? Cultural tourism is becoming the new city creed. The belief is growing that a lively arts district is the beating heart of a revitalized downtown. The Nasher Collection has the kind of artistic significance that, as museum consultant Richard Brettell pointed out in this magazine, could literally form an avenue from Dallas to the world’s great art museums, establishing a give-and therefore take-relationship with other collections. Dallas is a pragmatic place, but The Nasher Collection’s glamour could ignite the civic imagination to think of downtown not only as a place of business, but also of enrichment. The Nasher Collection’s location will link the Meyerson Symphony Center with the Dallas Museum of Art, creating a magnet for other arts organizations in the city.

The Nashers have always liked to make their private collection public. NorthPark shoppers strolled by Jim Dine’s sculpture and NorthPark National Bank customers wrote their checks under the gaze of Andy Warhol’s ’’Marilyn.” The active influence of art, not the passive appreciation of it, was fundamental to the Nasher’s collecting of it: The art itself inspired Raymond and Patsy Nasher to own it. By making Dallas the collection’s permanent home, Ray Nasher has given the city a rare opportunity for cultural growth and, perhaps, the keys to downtown.