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New-Style Cowboy Art: Big, Abstract and Conceptual

by Jerome Weeks 11 Aug 2009 9:56 PM

Last week, the Dallas Cowboys announced new artworks are going in their stadium. They’re by leading contemporary artists; there isn’t a bronze statue of a quarterback among them. Tuesday, Gene Jones, wife of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, gave a tour of our most expensive art gallery. Jerome Weeks reports.


stadiium art7Gary Simmons, Blue Field Explosions, urethane, pigment and oil stick, 2009

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The new Dallas Cowboys stadium is the most expensive professional football stadium in the country. Now it’s also the most expensive art gallery. Last week, the Cowboys announced they’d commissioned major artworks from contemporary artists. The Dallas Cowboys Art Program will see 14 commissioned pieces installed in the stadium — as a start. The program is “ongoing” and may eventually feature sculptures outside the stadium as well. It will also include an art education program with tours for schoolchildren.

Tuesday, Gene Jones, wife of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, gave a tour of the seven works currently finished or – [sounds of cherry picker and workers] — still under construction. To select the artworks, an advisory council was formed, which included art collectors Howard Rachofsky and Gayle Stoffel, as well as curators from the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth and the Dallas Museum of Art — Michael Auping and Charlie Wylie, respectively.

GENE: “It was amazing the interaction of the art council and how, once we found a piece we liked, we all liked it. That was kind of the criteria.”

The paintings and sculptures are situated mostly along the stadium’s main concourse. Among the artists chosen, North Texans would recognize Olafur Eliasson because of Take Your Time, last year’s show of his works at the Dallas Museum of Art. Other contributors include painter Dave Muller who has also played with the band Destroy All Monsters, and Trenton Doyle Hancock, a Texas A&M graduate who was profiled on PBS’ art:21. A few of the artworks may have a degree of ironic comment to them. Mel Bochner’s Win!, for instance, is another one of his word-based works, in this case, an acrylic square with “Win! Vanquish! Conquer! Clobber!” and so on painted on it. (“Kick some butt!”)

On the other hand, German artist Franz Ackerman, known for his exuberant, candy-colored paintings, has covered one stairwell 130 feet high with a candy-colored cascade of shapes. (Coming Home (Meet Me) At the Waterfall — right) Most of the artworks are like that — very big, abstract or conceptual.

GENE: “It’s a cutting-edge type of art. I think it’s futuristic, just like our stadium. And that really was a criteria.”

Actually, cultural historian Jacob Burckhardt has argued that in the Western world, our first real portraits of individuals — that is, people who weren’t idealized rulers or gods — were ancient Greek statues. Of athletes. Winning athletes, anyway. So the combination of a sports endeavor with high art is not a novelty.

Still, as Gene Jones notes, in transforming an NFL stadium this way, the Cowboys art collection is certainly a first. In fact, the Cowboys’ stadium art program should perhaps be seen in light of that other North Texas innovation, an earlier moment when public art invaded a commercial space: Raymond Nasher’s decision to display some of his collection in NorthPark Mall.

But even then, the Nashers had been longtime, serious collectors of modern sculpture. When asked whether she collected contemporary art privately at home, Jones gave a little smile and shook her head,

“Not,” she said, “on this scale.”

  • I believe the art will continue the winning tradition
    of the Cowboys.It’s a great idea to infuse art into the
    stadium instead of the bland backdrop
    of the architecture.It will break the monotony
    and stimulate the crowd in subtle ways.