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The Meadows Museum is one of Dallas’ — no, one of America’s — hidden crown jewels, a cultural institution those in the know refer to as “Prado on the Prairie” for very good reason. It is home to one of the most profound and important collections of Spanish masterpieces outside of Spain. Goya, El Greco, Picasso, Miró, Velázquez, Dalí, Sorolla, Ribera, Murillo. . . the list of creative luminaries whose works hang in the Collegiate Georgian building on the Southern Methodist University campus could go on almost endlessly.
And 2021 marks an auspicious occasion, the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Meadows’ current building, which is a stunning sight on the university’s grounds. To celebrate the two decades of cultural vitality, the museum is presenting a pair of exhibitions that are the stuff of artistic dreams: “Building on the Boulevard: Celebrating 20 Years of the Meadows’s New Home” and “Fossils to Film: The Best of SMU’s Collections.”
The Meadows is more than its world-class Spanish collection.
“Over 20 years ago, SMU and The Meadows Foundation made an extraordinary and consequential decision: to provide the Meadows Museum with a transformational new home. Once open, this grand building propelled us on a path that would ultimately see the museum achieve the ambitious vision of our founder, Algur H. Meadows. I truly believe that we have created a ‘small Prado for Texas,’ ” says Mark A. Roglán, The Linda P. and William A. Custard Director of the Meadows Museum and Centennial Chair in the Meadows School of the Arts.
“If Mr. Meadows were with us today, I know that he would be proud to see his dream as a reality. I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished and grateful to our founders, advisory council members, staff, patrons and, of course, to The Meadows Foundation and Southern Methodist University for their remarkable foresight and unwavering support.
“This spring we celebrate our shared achievements with a new installation of the permanent collection of Spanish masterpieces exhibited in tandem with, for the first time, highlights from SMU’s esteemed collections of rare artifacts, prehistoric specimens and works by well-known Texas artists.”
Meadows, who founded the General American Oil Company of Texas, traveled often to Madrid during the 1950s, and he fell in love with the Prado, never missing an opportunity to visit the museum, one of the world’s best. His vision for a Texas Prado was born, and the Meadows Museum, backed by his passion and capital, not to mention the great works of art he had acquired, first opened its doors in 1965.
Its reputation was enhanced with the hiring of William B. Jordan, the institution’s first professional director, in 1967. All the while, Meadows continued purchasing pieces and housing them in the museum. Meadows passed away in 1978, but his legacy lives on.
“Building on the Boulevard,” tells the story of the structure that is the museum. From its 2001 inauguration attended by the King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain to any number of important exhibits and retrospectives, the building, which was designed by the Chicago architectural firm Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge, has gone from strength to strength, attracting visitors from the world over, who delight in its 14,000 square feet of gallery space, its impressive central grand staircase, and the top-floor permanent collection space, illuminated beautifully by the numerous skylights in the ceiling.
The Meadows is known for its extensive collection of Spanish art, but its companion exhibit, “Fossils to Film,” shows how much more there is to the museum. The exhibit puts on display representative items from nine vital university collections, including more than 100 works of art, rare specimens and exquisite artifacts.
Visitors will see up close prehistoric remains, Texas and U.S political ephemera, Native American art and artifacts, Texas masterpieces of art, and important civil rights documents and records, as well as films and pop-culture memorabilia. Where else in the world could one see, in the same place, the prehistoric fossil of a Miocene-era lizard, one whose head was smaller than a dime; a Latin dictionary printed in Germany in 1460; and a letter written by George Washington? Not to mention works by Texas artists Otis Dozier and Florence Elliot McClung.
The first exhibition in the new building was one especially suited for Dallas: “Poetics of Movement: The Architecture of Santiago Calatrava.” The Spanish architect was commissioned to create a sculpture that greets visitors to the museum to this day, an 80-foot-long work whose undulating steel beams mesmerize the senses.
Under Roglán’s leadership, the Meadows has developed into a top U.S. cultural institution, one that more people should know about. In the past two decades, Roglán and his staff have added more than 250 works to the museum’s collection, including Dalí’s Fish Man (L’homme poisson), Goya’s Portrait of Mariano Goya, The Artist’s Grandson, and the work that is the earliest painting in the collection, Pere Vall’s Saints Benedict and Onophrius, dating from around 1410.
And Roglán is not resting on his laurels. In 2019, the Meadows teamed up with Fundación ARCO, the organizer of ARCOmadrid, Spain’s top contemporary art fair, with the goal of bringing more U.S. exposure to contemporary Spanish artists and their work. In addition, the Meadows established a relationship in the same year with Madrid’s Teatro Real and The Dallas Opera, resulting in a synergistic relationship that takes the visual and performing arts to new heights.
If you’ve never been to the Meadows Museum, these two exhibitions provide the perfect opportunity for you to become acquainted with and enchanted by a Texas crown jewel. If you already know how majestic the Meadows Museum can be, there is also no better time for a return visit.
What: Meadows Museum — New Building’s 20th Anniversary
Where: SMU Campus, 5900 Bishop Blvd. (free parking in the museum’s garage)
When: Now Through June 20th