Take a Closer Look at the Whimsical and Provocative Works of Dallas Arts District’s New Hotel

The Expansive Collection Within the Hall Arts Hotel Isn't Playing It Safe

BY // 02.19.20
photography Robert Tsai

Now there’s a place — and a very chic and sublime one, at that — to lay your travel-weary head in the Dallas Arts District. The towering Hall Arts Hotel, with its sleek glass facade and commanding views of the Dallas skyline, is the only hotel in the country’s largest contiguous arts district. And its arrival has been a long time coming. Clocking in at 11 stories high and with 183 guest rooms and 19 suites, it’s a light-filled oasis amidst downtown’s urban sprawl — part of a compound that includes the Hall Arts Residences.

The hotel was designed by HKS Architects and decorated by Bentel & Bentel. Refreshingly, it takes its place serenely near architectural masterpieces such as I.M. Pei’s classically modern Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the Foster + Partners-designed Winspear Opera House and Rem Koolhaas-designed Wyly Theatre. We’re reminded of the words of the great Piet Mondrian: “I want to abolish time, especially in the contemplation of architecture.”

The Hall Arts Hotel was developed by the very definition of powerhouse couple: Craig Hall, chairman and founder of Dallas-based Hall Group, and his wife, Kathryn Hall, lead vintner for Napa Valley’s Hall Wines, Walt Wines, and owner of Napa Valley’s Senza Hotel. Craig’s real estate developments include Hall Arts, the five-acre, mixed-use development in the Dallas Arts District that includes KPMG Plaza at Hall Arts, Hall Arts Hotel, and Hall Arts Residences, as well as a sprawling development in Frisco. Kathryn’s backstory reads like a fascinating novel, from her upbringing in California where her father owned a vineyard to attending boarding school in Switzerland, earning a law degree, her candidacy as a potential Dallas mayor, and her time as the U.S. Ambassador to Austria during the Clinton administration.

39 4×6 Lobby_HALL Arts Hotel (Photo by Robert Tsai )
Jana Ružicková’s “Lasvit,” 2019, hangs above the reception desk. (Photo by Robert Tsai )

With neighbors that include the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, and Crow Collection of Asian Art, it was imperative that the hotel display a notable art collection as well. The Halls own the Hall Collection, an outsized trove of international and local artworks dissembled throughout Hall Group’s properties, but to curate a collection of specially commissioned works, they enlisted Virginia Shore, an expert in modern and contemporary art in all media, based in Washington D.C., as their consultant on the project.

Like Kathryn, Shore has a state department background: She established and supervised the art acquisitions program for the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies. This is where the two women first met, during Kathryn’s tenure in Austria. In assembling the hotel’s collection, Shore worked alongside Patricia Meadows, a longtime art advocate and Hall Group’s Texas curator.

Shore doesn’t shy from work that might be deemed provocative.

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“There are several key works in the hotel collection that address issues of today,” she says. She has purposefully selected artists with an awareness of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. “Works [of art] are intended to inspire the viewer; they are subtly provocative and compelling. They pull us in and encourage conversation, as well as celebrate the world around us.”

While some might deem the art shown as a calculated risk, the choices are more intuitive than that. Kathryn says, “We’re not playing it safe — when it comes to anything. Safe can be boring.” While she carries herself and her business with a calculated air, she’s attuned to the visceral reaction that a work, a space, or even a beautiful glass of wine might evoke.

41 4×6 Pard Morrison_Warp & Weft_HALL Arts Hotel (Photo by Robert Tsai )
“Warp & Weft” by Pard Morrison. (Photo by Robert Tsai )

Highlights in the collection include contemporary Scottish painter Alison Watt’s Volvere, 2019, which welcomes guests at the entry. Watt is known for her realistic depiction of drapery and figures; this sensual work suggests folds of skin, or the sumptuous bedding one might find in a luxury suite. Lava Thomas’ ceiling-hung sculpture in reds and pinks, Resistance Reverb: Movements 1, 2018, gently floats above a light-filled seating area. The components are reminiscent of the tambourines held by activists during the pivotal women’s marches of 2017; on some of the floating discs are snippets of political speeches made by women throughout U.S. history.

Alison Watt_Volvere_HALL Arts Hotel_2 (Photo by Robert Tsai )
Contemporary Scottish painter Alison Watt’s “Volvere,” 2019. Watt is known for her realistic depiction of drapery and figures. (Photo by Robert Tsai)

Thomas considers her work “not overtly political,” even as she strives to get the attention of those who might not normally discuss the topics she explores. Perhaps the fact that the piece resembles a decorative chandelier achieves that aim. Lighthearted and whimsical pieces provide compelling contrast to the works with a heavier narrative — for example, Nekisha Durrett’s playful word-based installation adjacent to the elevators. Created from polyurethane foam, acrylic paint, cotton balls, Spanish moss, lotus pods, cedar cones, eucalyptus, and burlap, it proclaims: “Then I Wished That I Could Come Back as a Flower.”

And then there’s the photography. Creating a local connection through art, Meadows led a juried photography competition for new, emerging, and seasoned Dallas photographers called “Through the Lens: Dallas Arts District.” Artists were encouraged to capture images that spoke to the energy and life in the neighborhood. An esteemed jury — which included art museum directors, former Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings, and contemporary art collector Howard Rachofsky — selected 91 winning photographs from 57 local photographers. The images appear throughout the hotel’s public spaces, including Michael Nguyen’s Bandaloop, which captured a dance troupe’s gravity-defying performance of acrobatic movements off the side of the Hall Arts building. Each guest room also has a cache of photographs from the collection.

ELLIE’S Lounge_HALL Arts Hotel
Ellie’s will open this Friday at HALL Arts Hotel.

As you dash from meeting to meeting with eyes glued to your smartphone, take a moment to relax. Have a glass of Kathryn Hall’s highly rated Bordeaux at the sumptuous rooftop pool or at Ellie’s Restaurant and Lounge on the second floor of the Hall Arts Hotel. The restaurant, with its views of the lobby and live music five nights a week, takes its name from Craig’s late mother, Ellie Hall, an art advocate and force of nature.

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