Last Thoughts on Dallas

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Kimbell Art Museum/Louis Kahn — Photo: Kimbell Art Museum

I’m back from Dallas with a couple of final thoughts from my trip there.

1. First, about “The Future of the Past, ” the conference I attended at Southern Methodist University. Most of it was focused on the split between archeologists on one side and museums, dealers and antiquities collectors on the other. There was a lot of talk about finding a common way forward, but I didn’t see much evidence that there was one. I was left with the impression of two sides that have been stalemated for years over the central issue — can there be any justification for a private market for antiquities, so long as that market inevitably creates an incentive for looters to trash archeological sites in search of things to sell? For the most part, everybody agreed to disagree.

2. I stayed over in Texas for a couple of extra days to pay visits to the museums in Dallas and Fort Worth. You will not be surprised to hear that the Kimbell, the Louis Kahn masterpiece in Fort Worth, remains one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. But what struck me this time was the way it obviously served as inspiration for the two magnificent additions to the DFW area in recent years — Tadao Ando’s Fort Worth Modern Art Museum and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, by Renzo Piano.

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Fort Worth Modern Art Museum/Tadao Ando — Photo: Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau

Ando’s museum, which is just across the road from the Kimbell, sits on a serene reflecting pool. The combination of austere structure and mirror-surface water is one that Ando has used before, most famously in his Church on the Water in Hokkaido, Japan. But it ocurred to me this time that Ando’s Fort Worth pool was also a bow in the direction of the smaller pools at either side of the Kimbell, as well as the much larger plate of water that surrounds Kahn’s great legislative assembly buildings in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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Nasher Sculpture Center/Renzo Piano — Photo: Dallas Convention Bureau

As for Piano, he’s been criticized lately for some underwhelming American projects, like his New York Times headquarters in Manhattan. But at the Nasher he produced one of the great buildings of his career. And though it’s a fair distance from the Kimbell — an $80 cab ride, but hey, who’s counting — his museum also addresses Kahn’s, in this case by way of its (much more gently) vaulted galleries — a feature Ando uses as well — and its white travertine walls. It’s Piano, of course, who’s been tapped to design an addition to the Kimbell. (As a young man Piano actually worked for a while in Kahn’s Philadelphia office.) One look at the Nasher and you understand why he got the job.

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