Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Few Days on the Road

I was convinced to join a group from the Spanish Colonial Society and Museum in Santa Fe to come on their junket to Dallas, Texas.  Actually, it did not need too much convincing since I had wanted to see the Caillebotte exhibition at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Dallas's more hospitable neighbor but more about that another day. 

These trips are often over scheduled and this one was no exception.  Within a few minutes of arriving at the hotel we were asked to be in one of the hotel's meeting rooms for a lecture.  Happily, this was a rather interesting one, on "Colonial Art in Texas" by Dr. Kelly Donahue Wallace, Professor at the University of North Texas.  Another of her titles was Director of on-line programming, a relatively new term in academe. In the images she showed I found interesting all the influences from continental Europe including France and mostly The Netherlands. 

After a brief break we went to see a lovely couple in their vitrine-like home.  You could see most of the rooms through the large glass windows.  They were extremely eclectic collectors and clearly bought what they liked wherever they went.  The French 18th century style furniture they chose to live with was of particular interest to me. The one essential for these trips is the van or bus and we were, mercifully, a small enough group for a van.

The next morning we were at the Meadows Museum of Art when the doors opened.  The Meadows is on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU).  Our son was there studying at the Meadows School for the Arts majoring in Theatre 15 years ago. In those days the museum was actually housed in the school but we hardly saw anyone ever there and certainly not the students unless they were in a class!  Today it is quite a vibrant institution with its own building.  We had a docent take us around their special exhibition, "Treasures of the House of Alba".  I don't know about you but when I see an art exhibition I like to learn something of the art and not just the history of the family.  I want to be wowed by their collection and see how it fit into the family story not just about the people themselves.  What I found of most interest in the show was the family’s fifteenth century bible, an  illustrated manuscript of 513 folios.  A Rabbi was commissioned for the first translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew into Spanish.  CLICK HERE to see illustrations from the facsimile edition with the story of the bible.    This image of the Meadows museum has the lyrical undulating sculpture by Santiago Calatrava of 2002.

We spent the afternoon at the Dallas Museum of Art ostensibly to see their collection of Spanish Colonial art which all fit into one small gallery.  Our docent was a very nice fellow but luckily the curator from the Spanish Colonial Art Museum, Robin Gavin, was with us to help him out...  The museum is a cold cavernous place, which shows how much space there is in Texas!  Happily we could roam around their collections on our own where we could discover some wonderful paintings.  Then on to the next cocktail party where the lady who greeted us had a proper art collection with works of art everywhere.  She and her husband had clearly collected passionately being into Native American and Pre-Columbian ceramics and American Modernist paintings and works on paper.  Next stop a good restaurant.  I should mention that our hostesses both evenings fed us well with drinks and a multitude of fancy hors d'oeuvres.

The next morning it was back into our van to drive the 45-minute trip to Fort Worth where we went to visit the incomparable Kimbell Art Museum founded in 1966 and opened in their wonderful Louis Kahn building in 1972.   Curator, Nancy Edwards gave us a tour of the highlights of the collection.  It was so good to see old friends again, both in person and on the wall.  I think that I will visit some of those in more detail in the next weeks. They have a hearty cafeteria menu especially as compared to the box of lettuce that we were handed at the Dallas museum.  There was no choice there.  At the Kimbell you just tell them what size plate you want, small medium or large and fill it up!  Then to the new wing of the Kimbell by starchitect Renzo Piano where the wonderful Caillebotte exhibition was being held.  Since the show had just opened it was too crowded to have a docent; we settled for the audio guide.  Also more on this at a later date.   Here our eager group waits for the Kimbell Museum’s doors to open.

The final art stop on our brief trip was another high point, the Amon Carter Museum. It was the dream of Amon G. Carter, Sr. who died in 1955.  The museum, also in a building by a famous architect, Philip Johnson, opened in 1961.  It was then what Ruth Carter Stevenson, daughter of the founder, once told us that, at the beginning, it was called the “Yippee Yi Yay” museum.  In other words it was not taken seriously.  “Mistake, big mistake”.  The original collection of Western Art has been extended to cover all American art.  There is a great interest in photography with a fabulous collection best known for its holdings of Elliot Porter.  Here we had a docent of a certain age who was so full of vim and vigor, I kept thinking what she must have been like as a young woman. In any case, she was the perfect anecdote for a group that was probably pretty close to museumed out!

Back in Dallas we had our good-bye party at a restaurant called Mesa.  It had been recommended by our son and the daughter of one of the others in our group.  What a great recommendation it was!  Some of the best Mexican food I have ever had, not to mention the Margaritas!  Caught in this photo the Museum Director, David Setford (right) and Joel Goldfrank whose daughter suggested Mesa.

I always say I enjoy travel in retrospect since it is always exhausting and this trip was as well. We certainly got a lot in and lots of good memories with what turned out to be a most enjoyable group of fellow travelers.

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