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The Resurrection of Henry Moore

Henry Moore is a monumental figure in 20th century sculpture. But in recent years, because of his "mainstream" status, he was rejected by other artists and nearly forgotten by the public. But with the support of the Dallas Foundation, and the recent reded
By Shelly Grimes |

The Groundwork

Kosinski organized the DMA’s “The Artist and the Camera: Degas to Picasso” show in the fall of 2000. She describes that exhibition as “huge. We were dealing with 14 artists instead of one, and an incredible amount of details.” The Moore retrospective focuses on only one artist, but the scope is much larger. Patrons will experience a thorough sampling of every artistic phase of Moore’s life.

Despite the generous gift from the Dallas Foundation, the DMA needed more funding for the exhibit. “Sometimes the fundraising process is a little more spontaneous than at other times,” Kosinski muses. “But there was just that sense of momentum—the director and curatorial staff were on board, and the funds were rolling in.” Ultimately, the DMA secured sponsorships from TU Electric and TI, and additional funding from various local sponsors.

With enough sponsorships secured to go forward, the curatorial team began the mammoth task of selecting and securing works of art. The DMA owns a major bronze by Moore, a plaster piece, a wood carving, and a drawing that relates to the carving. The museum also owns a collection of small maquettes, models of a planned sculpture, from the later period of Moore’s career.

Kosinski cites the Moore Foundation’s archives as a huge help to her research. “They know where everything is,” she says. “And they know sizes and dimensions. Usually we don’t start with that basis of technical knowledge.” Kosinski studied the Moore Foundation’s archives to prepare essays. She also considered who she wanted to author the catalog. “The Moore Foundation made the selection of works with me,” she says. “With their commitment to lend and their knowledge of Moore, we worked together to come up with a basic skeletal selection of works upon which we added pieces from other museums all around the country and from Europe.”

 Kosinski believes that the focus on architecture, public art, walking tours, and discussions about public space and public amenities comes at an important moment in the history of Dallas. “This is a show that has a special role in the Dallas community,” she says. “It’s not just about sculpture. This is an exhibit about an artist who has such a high-profile role in public art. It’s a vehicle for us to look at not just the museum, not just our sculpture garden, or the Nasher Sculpture Garden, but all of the work that surrounds us in Dallas.”

 She also believes that younger generations of artists think they know Moore but don’t. “There was a moment in the ’60s and ’70s when even his own students—Anthony Caro, and others who used these sort of brutal, industrial shapes—really turned against him. Some recanted and re-embraced him later, but there was a moment where he had been the crown prince and kind of stalled. He became too known to be seen.”

To execute a true retrospective, “Sculpting the 20th Century” includes several of Moore’s little-known but extraordinary early carvings. “It’s tremendous work,” Kosinski says. “His early carvings—tribal, non-Western, surrealist, and poetic transpositions between human figures and landscape and still life all at once—are really radical. I think those will be the works that people will be stunned by.” Kosinski cites these works as the ones that will help to explain what the artist was about throughout his career. “He maintains his integrity,” she says, “and you probably can’t understand that without understanding his career in some depth.”

Reaching Out

Once the art was selected, the project gained momentum. Other departments were brought in to execute specific goals. Committees were created; grant proposals written; and discussions about installations, catalogs, family programs, lectures, gallery interpretive materials, outreach into the community, and architectural tours commenced. “There is a huge amount of labor,” Kosinski says. “It impacts everyone. It starts among curatorial, but then when this machine gets going, it ends up touching every department.”

Simultaneously, the museum sought other venues to showcase the exhibit. Directors and curators of museums generally become aware of each other’s shows through personal contacts. “We usually find out about these exhibitions in the very early planning stages,” says Debra Wittrup, head of exhibitions. “It’s word of mouth. Nobody publishes their thoughts or plans.” Kosinski lists several other factors that also determine where an exhibit travels, geography being one of the simpler ones. “It would make no sense to have Moore in Houston and Dallas,” she says, “And by going to San Francisco and Washington, we’re covering both coasts.”

The National Gallery was a natural choice for a Moore show because they also have a Moore piece just outside of the entrance to the east wing of the museum. And the east wing was designed by I.M. Pei, just like our City Hall. “I think intellectually, my colleague there, Jeffrey Weiss, felt, as I did, drawn to the idea that this might be a moment to look at this artist to see what we really think or know about him,” Kosinski says. Steve Nash, the curator of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, has a history of putting together big projects having to do with sculpture. “So for him it was a natural too,” Kosinski says. “It’s that mixture of strategic thinking, geography, calendars, feasibility, and willingness that dictates where the shows will travel.”

The DMA education department starts early and juggles several shows at once. “It’s a collaboration between the education and curatorial departments and our partners in the community,” says Kathy Walsh-Piper, director of education and public programs at the DMA. Walsh-Piper’s background is in education, and her demeanor is reminiscent of a 4th-grade teacher’s. The education department began to prepare for the Moore show over a year ago. “We always start to plan way in advance because we want to write grant proposals,” Walsh-Piper says. “Because of the Dallas Foundation funding the show, we wanted to make sure we gave it the proper community profile.”

“It’s usually a collective decision,” Wittrup adds. “There’s a meeting with all the curators and the head of education, and the director and deputy director of the museum. We all sit in a room together and go over all these proposals and discuss costs, aesthetic value, why it’s right for our program, and the value to the community.” The curators then go back and gather the information necessary to plan the programs and develop the ideas as much as possible.

Besides the regular adult programming, scholarly symposiums where scholars give lectures, and a standard CD-ROM guide, there are several things the museum did differently this time around. “Since this exhibition is going to two other venues,” Walsh-Piper says, “we thought it would be great if we could partner with these other institutions and share some of our materials.” The teaching and student materials will be made available via the museum’s web site, in an attempt to show more sculpture from different parts of the world. The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects will present an interactive show that looks at how buildings and sculptures are sited in a city and how a neighborhood is created. The museum also has a special partnership with the South Dallas community and Griner Middle School through the Ice House Cultural Center.

The museum also established a partnership with Lollie Tompkins, head of visual arts at Booker T. Washington. “Lollie said that she was planning ahead for Moore,” says Walsh-Piper. The magnet school for the arts will have a visiting sculptor, Debbie Ballard, teach advanced sculpture students. Tompkins wanted to find a place where the final cast piece that was chosen from all the students’ work would be shown in the community. Walsh-Piper proposed displaying the work of art at the museum. “So we’re putting the whole class on the web,” says Walsh-Piper. “And their works—the studies that they do and the maquettes for the sculptures—will be in exhibition here next spring in our Gateway Gallery.”

The students’ large-scale sculptures may also be on view. “It is exciting to be able to show people the impact that museum programs have in the community and in the schools,” Walsh-Piper says. “It’s a wonderful partnership that we have in the arts district—we have a great high school of the arts and an art museum so close together. This is an experiment, but really we’re excited about it. It’s made us feel like we have something different to offer, and it’s our first venture into distance education.”
The Logistics

Since February 2000, Gabriella Truly, head of collections for the DMA, has been sending out contracts to lenders, investigating the condition of the pieces, and discussing how best to install them. She also went to London to meet with the Henry Moore Foundation, which contributed about 60 percent of the exhibited works to the show. Truly talks logistics in the no-nonsense way of someone who believes that life is in the details. She speaks lovingly of the 109 sculptural works, including large-scale and medium bronzes, carvings, maquettes and plasters, and the 98 drawings whose arrival she has coordinated.

Truly is responsible for not only supervising the unpacking, but also for executing a condition examination, in which each piece is examined and compared to a report completed at the onset of the exhibition. “She is the one who sits there and tries to make sense and budget all of the transportation and insurance,” Kosinski says. Truly coordinates everything from having art hangers available to making sure the walls are painted. “She handles the technical side,” Kosinski says. “Without that, in a sense, an exhibit is only a book.”

Four of Moore’s sculptures are so large they had to be brought over by ocean liners, packed in specially designed crates. When they arrived, Truly needed a crane to hoist them over the museum wall. The crane, set up on Ross and St. Paul, lifted four of the heaviest objects, weighing around 7,000 pounds each. The medium-sized sculptures arrived from Europe via cargo planes, while the pieces shipped from various points within the United States and Canada arrived by truck, a process Truly likens to a bus tour. “The truck originates in Canada and slowly winds down the East Coast toward Texas,” she says. “It stops along the way to pick up various works from lenders.”

By the time the rig rolled into Dallas, the largest sculptures were already installed. Dr. Kosinski and Bill Cochran, a freelance designer in Houston, were responsible for organizing the layout of the pieces in the gallery. The placement was determined by aesthetics, the structural stability of the ground, and the theme of the exhibit.

Most of the lending museums send a courier from their staff to facilitate the arrival of the loaned piece, the end result of which is even more bodies—and more scheduling for Truly. “Sometimes it’s hard to schedule everyone,” she says. “But this show is going to be amazing. We’re really excited about it. With the last show, “Degas to Picasso,” we had 120 lenders and it was a nightmare,” she says. “Working with only one artist makes my life easier.”

The Results

Judging the success of an exhibit is an elusive task. “You’re evaluating the reason you do a project on a lot of different levels,” Kosinski says. “Not that we ever make money, but we do try to cover costs of projects with box office sales.” Kosinski describes a sense that certain projects have to be done—so important in terms of either artistic or intellectual question that they can’t be avoided. “In a way, you have to focus on your permanent collection,” she says, “and sometimes you want to reach out to certain segments of the population. To have a great show of Mexican art or contemporary versus old masters, sculpture versus painting, African versus antiquities—to keep it varied.”

The role of art in an urban environment, and specifically in Dallas, will be brought to the forefront by the Moore show and further at the completion of the Nasher Sculpture Garden in 2002. “This is a place where there is a lot happening,” Kosinski says. “There is an abundance of opportunity and positive, forward thinking. I have an interest in urbanism and the growth of the city downtown, and seeing the museum not simply as an isolated cultural object, but as part of a community where people live, listen to music, walk, shop, and go to the museum.

“Dallas is such a young city—the museum is celebrating 100 years in 2003. Since the ’80s, when the museum moved here from Fair Park, it’s been stranded in this kind of urban desert. The great expectations that the community has for the museum and itself, they can’t be realized without being contextualized. There’s that sense of people activity that keeps things going. It’s a natural rather than an uphill struggle to make the museum the object of frequent, casual, and pleasant visits.”


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