The birth and growth of the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection started more than 50 years ago. In 1950, the Nashers traveled to Mexico, where they became interested in pre-Columbian art and bought the first works in what would become a sizable collection of objects from ancient Latin America. They soon bought other ethnographic and archaeological works and also acquired a number of important American modernist paintings and prints. Mr. Nasher often credits this early involvement with pre-Columbian and other tribal arts as having whetted the Nashers’ appetite for, and appreciation of, modern three-dimensional works.
By the late-1960s, the Nashers had made their first significant acquisitions of modern sculpture. These included Jean Arp’s Torso with Buds (1961), two major bronzes by Henry Moore, Three Piece No. 3: Vertebrae (1968) and Two Piece Reclining Figure No.9 (1968, no longer in the Collection), and Barbara Hepworth’s large and powerful Squares with Two Circles (Monolith) (1963, cast 1964). In rapid succession, they went on to acquire works by, among others, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder and Isamu Noguchi.
These works set a high standard for acquisitions to follow and excited them about the prospect of surrounding themselves with great art in their home. Mr. Nasher liked the idea that he might use sculptures to enliven spaces in his commercial real estate developments and eventually began to rotate groups of works through his highly successful NorthPark Center. The Nashers' guiding principle for acquisitions from the beginning was simple: the works had to move them personally.
During the 1980s, the collection grew at an accelerating pace. Outstanding works by many of the great masters of modern sculpture were added. Simultaneously, the Nashers became more deeply involved with work by living artists, exhibiting an eclectic and adventuresome taste that embraced diverse and sometimes challenging objects. Some of the first major acquisitions in this area include Claes Oldenburg’s Pile of Typewriter Erasers (1970-74), Richard Serra’s Inverted House of Cards (1969-70), Donald Judd’s Untitled (1976) and Roy Lichtenstein’s Double Glass (1979). Works by younger artists such as Anish Kapoor, Richard Deacon, Jeff Koons, Scott Burton and Martin Puryear soon followed.
By 1987, the Nasher Collection had gained international recognition and was one of the first exhibitions in the Dallas Museum of Art’s new downtown building. The Collection was subsequently presented in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; the Forte di Belvedere, Florence, Italy; and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel.
In October 1996, the collection was exhibited in A Century of Sculpture: The Nasher Collection at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City in February 1997.
Surveyed as a whole, the Nasher Collection demonstrates considerable balance between early modern works and art of the postwar period, abstraction and figuration, monumental outdoor and more intimately scaled indoor works, and the many different materials used in the production of modern art. Perhaps its single most distinguishing feature, however, is the depth with which it represents certain key artists, including Matisse (with nine sculptures), Picasso (seven), Smith (seven), Medardo Rosso (seven), Moore (seven), Miró (four), and Giacometti (10). Such well-rounded perspectives on the development of these masters provide, in effect, a series of mini-retrospectives within the Collection’s overall historical spectrum.