“They believed strongly in sharing the art they collected,” Nancy Nasher says of her late parents, Dallas real estate developer Raymond Nasher and his wife, Patsy, who together built one of the most important privately held collections of modern and contemporary sculpture in the U.S. Raymond and Patsy started out in the 1950s collecting pre-Columbian art but soon shifted their focus to the 20th century, acquiring pieces by the likes of Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin, along with ones by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and other members of the burgeoning Pop art tribe of the era.
But if the Nashers were savvy when it came to assembling their collection, they were radical in how they exhibited it. Raymond Nasher was among the first builders to install museum-quality artwork in the commercial spaces he developed. One of them was NorthPark Center, a shopping mall he opened in 1965 on the site of a former cotton field on the northern edge of Dallas. The couple filled the NorthPark Center grounds and the building itself with art, as works by artists such as Warhol, Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Antony Gormley, Jonathan Borofsky, and Jim Dine came to occupy lawns, courtyards, and the kinds of areas normally reserved for fountains and food courts. “When my parents were planning NorthPark, art in public spaces was all too rare in Dallas,” Nancy explains. “Supporting local arts organisations is supremely important, of course, but placing art in public spaces, where people conduct their daily lives, has the potential to reach much greater numbers.”
Nancy and her husband, David Haemisegger, took over NorthPark in 1995 and have since worked to expand both the mall, which underwent a $250 million renovation in 2006, and its art collection, which continues to grow. To mark its 50th anniversary this year, NorthPark is now hosting “Art Meets Fashion,” an exhibition featuring 25 garments that represent how artists and designers have collaborated and responded to popular culture and one another since 1965. Included are Pierre Cardin’s famous “bull’s-eye” minidress from the mid-’60s and a Halston pantsuit from 1974 with a print designed by Warhol and inspired by his “Flowers” paintings. In addition, artist Leo Villareal has been commissioned to create an installation, based on his “Buckyball” series, to be unveiled next month. “The selections illustrate the highly creative ways that art and fashion continue to break new ground,” Nancy says of the exhibition. “Leo and NorthPark also make for a great pairing. I find his work unique, mesmerising, and enthralling.”
Art is more central to the mall’s identity than ever. Last year NorthPark instituted a rotational program to expand the scope of the pieces on view, launched a mobile app that provides an interactive tour of the art on site, and hired a full-time manager of art programming to oversee initiatives aimed at further engaging visitors of all ages in the art experience. Nancy and David also continue to bring in new pieces from both their personal collection and the nearby Renzo Piano–designed Nasher Sculpture Center in downtown Dallas, as well as other institutions around the world. But the coup de grâce is the number of newer works they have installed at NorthPark over the past decade, which, together with all the luxury retailers that have moved in—Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Valentino, and Salvatore Ferragamo among them—have transformed the mall into a showcase for both 21st-century art and fashion. “The collection has grown organically as we incorporate artists that move us,” Nancy says, adding that they are also working with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Black Dance Theatre on performance-based projects they’d like to host at the mall. “We are working to develop even more programs to spark public art discussion on a global level,” she explains. “While retail is the heart of our business, our customers understand that shopping is just a part of what makes NorthPark special.”
Here, Nancy walks us through some of the current centrepieces of NorthPark’s permanent collection.
1. Mark di Suvero’s Ad Astra, (2005). “When I read about it in The New York Times, we immediately flew to Storm King [Art Center, in New Windsor, New York] to see it. I could envision people engaging with it, walking through it, and enjoying it from several levels. It has truly become the iconic piece of sculpture in the shopping center.”
2. Joel Shapiro’s 20 Elements (2004–5). “I recognised that this brilliant ‘colour fountain,’ as I saw it, would fit perfectly within a space I had previously imagined for a working fountain. It’s a dynamic three-dimensional masterpiece of colour and form.”
3. Anthony Caro’s River Song (2011–12) (pictured) and Clouds (2011). “Here was an artist who had been welding metal for decades but still managed to create awe-inspiring, fresh compositions up until the end of his life.”
4. Iván Navarro’s This Land Is Your Land (2014). “Recently we added this to the collection. It’s a source of contemplation, inspiration, and possibility.”
5. Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Corridor Pin, Blue (1999).“Another work that surprises our visitors with its simple aesthetic appeal, towering size, and sense of humour. Everyone appreciates its slight nod to the fashion world.”
6. Leo Villareal, new commission (Buckyball, 2015, pictured).”By using sophisticated software to program LED lights—sometimes thousands of them in one sculpture—he creates amazing textures and patterns that are ever changing as you move around them.”
Placing art in public spaces, where people conduct their daily lives, has the potential to reach much greater numbers,” says Nancy Nasher.
From: Harper’s BAZAAR US