Destination 2016: DallasBy Sandra Ramani

This northern Texas center of business and industry is fast becoming a global arts hub.

On a recent evening at Dallas’ Nasher Sculpture Center, lively crowds of young professionals and families gathered along the travertine walls of a manicured sculpture garden. They staked their claims with picnic blankets on a beautiful lawn surrounded by masterpieces by Auguste Rodin, Alexander Calder, Joan Miró and Willem de Kooning—as well as food carts serving everything from homemade buttermilk fried chicken to savory tacos. Later in the night, after acoustic guitar duo The O’s performed a set, attendees to this artsy festival under the stars settled into their blankets to watch a showing of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Urban Innovation
Downtown’s transformation into a cultural district has revitalized long-neglected neighborhoods.
Civic Leadership
Legislators and private citizens work together to enhance Dallas’ cultural attractions.
Cultural Life
World-class museums, galleries, private collections and art fairs make Dallas a global leader in the arts.
This scene might be typical of Brooklyn or Los Angeles, but Dallas? To the city’s detriment, some people still associate it with the Texas clichés popularized decades ago by television shows such as Dallas and The Yellow Rose. Tourism officials admit that visitors arriving in search of Texas kitsch might be disappointed to find more designer boutiques and gleaming skyscrapers than cowboy boots and 10-gallon hats. But this sophisticated destination is determined to dispel such myths once and for all by becoming a cultural powerhouse.

Trade and commerce built Dallas, first through cotton and oil, then more recently with banking, tech and healthcare. The city remains a flourishing business capital—home to more Fortune 500 companies than any city in the U.S. except New York and Houston, and a major concentration of jobs and wealth. But it is Dallas’ arts scene that is winning international buzz today, and its cultural institutions are shaping its future. The city has transformed its skyline and downtown core with modernist architecture, expansive arts complexes and green spaces, and world-class museums and private collections.

Goss-Michael collection © Courtesy of the GMC; Dallas Museum of Art © Courtesy of DMA; Model at the Eye Ball © Scot & Kristi Redman; Harlan Crow’s library © Chris Goodney/Getty Images; Two x Two for AIDS and Art Gala © Kevin Tachman/Wireimage

Not that art appreciation is entirely new. Given the number of affluent Dallasites—at last count there were 16 billionaires in the city, and several more in nearby Fort Worth—Dallas has never lacked benefactors. More than a century ago, prominent residents supported the creation of an art museum, the precursor of the Dallas Museum of Art. But today many more names, such as Perot, McDermott, Meadows, Hall, Nasher, Rose and Crow, adorn cultural institutions and major collections.

The growing appreciation for art in Dallas has an aesthetic purpose: Sprawled over 386 square miles of flat land, the city has never been a naturally scenic setting. “Because we lack the natural beauty of some other Texas cities, art has served as a recreational anchor and quality of life issue—and has helped businesses attract and retain an intelligent workforce,” says Catherine Cuellar, director of Entrepreneurs for North Texas.

A key example of Dallas’ thriving cultural scene is its Arts District. Conceived in the late 1970s when the Dallas Museum of Art needed a new home, the 19-block, 68-acre downtown neighborhood became the linchpin of the city’s arts community, and the city committed to concentrating the majority of its cultural institutions there. In the subsequent years, this plan revitalized the city center with structures by Pritzker Prize–winning architects such as Rem Koolhaas’ Wyly Theatre, I. M. Pei’s Meyerson Symphony Center, Nor-man Foster’s Winspear Opera House and Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center. The evidence of the Arts District’s success is visible in its increased popularity: In 2013 the McKinney Avenue trolley added its first new car in 25 years, new restaurants and hotels have popped up in downtown and the Dallas Museum of Art has had record attendance over the last two years. “Our current art scene and Arts District are the result of 40 years of vision and philanthropy, from both civic leaders and residents,” says Cuellar, who previously served as executive director of the Arts District.

Among those forward-thinking private citizens were prominent families such as that of Harlan Crow. His father, Dallas native Trammell Crow, built an eponymous real estate empire while also channeling his enthusiasm for art into his work and philanthropy. Harlan Crow, now chairman and CEO of global real estate investment firm Crow Holdings, remembers that art appreciation was integral to his childhood. “Our stock-in-trade was building buildings,” he explains, “and it seemed clear that for a building to be important, art had to be a part of that equation.”

Dallas collectors such as the Crows have also taken an active role in the community by opening their collections to the public. While East Asian art was his parents’ passion—the Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art museum is its incarnation— Crow himself is drawn to pieces that celebrate American history, noted figures and “philosophic ideals.” Many of these works are featured in “The American Experiment,” a collection of paintings, murals, sculptures and architectural elements displayed throughout Crow’s Old Parkland Campus business complex. Though Crow is drawn to the traditional, he acknowledges that “Dallas’ art scene is now primarily like the city: contemporary.”

Boston native and 25-year Dallasite John Sughrue agrees. “We don’t have 300 years of history here. This is a growing, forward-looking American city, and you can see that in its gestalt— in its architecture, the design of the homes and the focus on contemporary art,” says the former New York City banker-turned-real estate developer, who with gallerist Chris Byrne founded the Dallas Art Fair in 2009. “Culture follows commerce, and with citizens of the world now living in Dallas, a keen eye and an enthusiasm for collecting are part of the rhythm of the city.”

From its intimate beginnings, the Art Fair has grown to become the cornerstone of Dallas’ annual spring Arts Week, so declared by mayor Mike Rawlings in 2013. April 15 to 17 of this year, the fair featured nearly 100 dealers from 18 countries, hosted close to 13,000 attendees over the three-day period and resulted in healthy sales. Galas and receptions, openings of new exhibits (like this year’s Helmut Lang solo show at Dallas Contemporary), and gallerist- and curator-led tours now round out the week, as do opportunities for collectors to meet artists.

Kenny Goss, who, together with his ex-partner, British singer George Michael, launched the nonprofit Goss-Michael Foundation in Dallas nearly a decade ago, stresses that making those connections is crucial for both the artists and the community. “Art can be a catalyst to inspire people to engage with charities, and the people who are interested in helping charities often become the next collectors,” he says. In addition to showcasing British artists, both established and emerging, the foundation offers an artist-in-residence program, grants scholarships, houses a research library and hosts the annual MTV Re:Define art-music-auction event, which has raised millions for HIV/AIDS research through the sale of pieces donated by artists such as Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, David Salle and Shepard Fairey.

Also drawing celebrities and art-world players from around the globe is the Two x Two for AIDS and Art gala and auction, which over its 17 years has raised more than $60 million for AmfAR, an AIDS research nonprofit, and helped the Dallas Museum of Art acquire more than 190 contemporary pieces for its permanent collection. The annual event is held at the Richard Meier–designed former home of collectors Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, which is filled with works by artists like Gerhard Richter, Lucio Fontana and Donald Judd, and is now used primarily for events and guided tours. The Rachofsky Collection and Meier house are also part of a massive joint irrevocable bequest made to the DMA by the Rachofskys and fellow power collectors Marguerite and (the late) Robert Hoffman and Deedie and (the late) Rusty Rose; together, the three couples’ bequest encompasses 900 works of modern and contemporary art, valued at more than $300 million.

The announcement of the bequest in 2005 was, in many ways, “a turning point for our art scene,” says Catherine Marcus Rose, a notable collector, current DMA board president and daughter-in-law of the Roses. “Dallas has believed for a long time that to be a great city we need a great museum, but museums are only great if its citizens offer their time, talent or treasures—the latter in the form of donations or financial resources.” The announcement of this blue-chip “treasure,” Rose believes, helped shine the spotlight on the “high level of collectors and galleries here, and on the importance of collectors connecting with art institutions and staying engaged with an evolving population. It also set the tone for a collaborative atmosphere,” she adds. “Collectors compete here, but not with sharp elbows—there’s a common joy in the process, and a celebration of what everyone is able to do.”

For all its consumption of art, most insiders admit that Dallas has a glaringly scant working-artist scene. Gail Sachson, an artist and the former head of the Dallas Cultural Affairs Commission, says the city “is filled with energized, talented working artists.” And initiatives by the Goss-Michael Foundation and the Fairmont Hotel’s artist-in-residence program as well as some local galleries support them. But a lack of high-density residential areas, reasonably priced studio spaces and alternative display spaces suppress local talent. The Arts District “needs more energy and services,” Harlan Crow admits, while DMA’s Catherine Marcus Rose adds that “suburbs don’t always breed inspiration.” But she is hopeful. “Culturally, Dallas has grown tremendously in the last 20 years, and as long as we keep engaging the public with art, and making sure our institutions are attracting all parts of the community, we will get there.” After all, she adds, “this is a city that has always seen itself as full of possibility.”

This article originally appeared in the 2016 June/July issue of Worth.


  • Cityscape

    Where to work, invest and play in Dallas

Dallas Art Dealers Association

This nonprofit promotes aware-ness of local arts by organizing gallery walks and educational events and by offering scholarships to local art students. Cathy Drennan, executive director,, 214.697.351,

Dallas Arts District

In addition to supporting local galleries and parks, this nonprofit behind the revitalized downtown neighborhood fosters emerging artists and cultural groups outside of the district with grants programs. 750 North St. Paul St., #1150, Lily Cabatu Weiss, executive director,, 214.744.6642,

MTV Re:Define

Hosted by the Goss-Michael Foundation, this glamorous annual art exhibition and auction allows bidders to vie for works by heavyweights such as Damien Hirst and Rob Pruitt. Proceeds benefit Dallas Contemporary and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, a global HIV/ AIDS charity.

The Fairmont Dallas

Along with elegant rooms and gold-level perks, this Arts District hotel features an artist-in-residence program that allows artists with local ties to stay on the property for three months, work in a glass-front studio and interact with guests. 1717 N. Akard St., Dan McGowan, general manager,, 214.720.2020,

The Joule

This hotel in downtown’s revitalized Main Street houses chic rooms, upscale boutiques and dining, along with a Taschen library and blue-chip art everywhere you turn. 1530 Main St., Justin Fields, general manager,, 214.748.1300,

Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek

This former mansion became Rosewood’s first hotel in 1980 and remains one of the most elegant places to stay in the city. Set near the business and arts districts, it offers complimentary Lexus sedan service for travel within five miles of the hotel. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214.559.2100,


Scoring a table at this quaint 36-seat, five-star trattoria, owned by chef David Uygur and his wife, Jennifer, is the toughest reservation in town. Or come early and try to snag one of the four coveted seats at the bar, which are for walk-ins only. 408 W. Eighth St., Suite 101, 214.948.4998,


A second, more casual restaurant from chef Matt McCallister of longtime Dallas favorite FT33, the four-star Filament features modern Southern cuisine. Menu standouts include the made-to-order Asian-Southern-fusion jonnycake okonomiyaki, Nashville-style hot catfish and a 21-day dry-aged pork chop. 2626 Main St., 214.760.1080,

Top Knot

A new restaurant from Uchi chef Tyson Cole, Top Knot opened upstairs from Japanese mainstay Uchi with chef de cuisine Angela Hernandez helming the kitchen. The small-plate menu reflects Asian and Latin American influences; there’s a thoughtful cocktail list in addition to beer, sake and wine on tap. 2817 Maple Ave., 214.855.1354,

Dallas Contemporary

This non-collecting museum regularly showcases new works from around the world along with a program of lectures and events. 161 Glass St., 214.821.2522,

Dallas Museum of Art

One of the 10 largest museums in the country, this institution’s permanent collection of more than 23,000 artworks spans 5,000 years. The first U.S. solo museum presentation of Swiss contemporary artist Nicolas Party debuts here on August 19. 1717 N. Harwood, 214.922.1200,

The Goss-Michael Foundation

Home to more than 500 works by over 100 British artists, this contemporary art collection recently relocated to a new, more intimate space within the Dallas Arts District. The foundation supports many fundraising events and a competitive residency program. 1305 Wycliff Ave., Joyce Goss, executive director, 214.696.0555,

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