Raymond and Patsy Nasher’s passion for art was sparked in the 1950s, when they started bringing pre-Columbian works home from trips to Latin America. In the ’60s, the Nashers began to collect modern sculpture, and by the ’80s, the collection had grown so influential that it was touring museums in Spain, Israel, and Italy.
With dreams of constructing an institution to show off the assortment of sculpture and other art he and his late wife had collected, Raymond Nasher announced plans to build the Nasher Sculpture Center across from the Dallas Museum of Art in 1997. It opened six years later. Renowned architect Renzo Piano designed a 55,000-square-foot facility that is divided into five parallel pavilions, and the three central pavilions house small sculptures, prints, paintings, and drawings from the Nasher collection. Barrel-vaulted glass ceilings provide plenty of skylights and limit the amount of artificial light needed in the 10,000-square-foot gallery space. The two outer pavilions of the Nasher are home to a cafe (with a menu designed by Wolfgang Puck) and a store that sells some of the most interesting gifts in town.
Piano’s design of the Nasher’s sculpture garden, with help from landscape architect Pete Walker, deserves as much praise as the building itself. On a sunny day, the garden is the prettiest spot downtown, with about 25 large sculptures spread out over 1.4 acres of trees, fountains, and perfectly manicured lawn. Like the galleries inside, works displayed in the garden rotate regularly to keep inspiration at a maximum.
The Nasher collection holds work from dozens of artists, including influential modern sculptors such as Constantin Brâncusi and Auguste Rodin, as well as Picasso, Matisse, and Miró, who made their name on canvas but created some amazing three-dimensional art. Rotating exhibits regularly delight.