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In Age Of University Museums, A Thriver

MeadowsPlensaThis is becoming an age of university museums: we’ve seen new buildings, renovated buildings, new programs tied closer to non-art courses, energetic directors with larger visions — I’m thinking of places like Michigan State, Yale, UCLA, Princeton, Harvard…  We’ve also seen controversy, of course: the Rose at Brandeis, for example. Yet some might argue that the Rose is stronger now for it; certainly more people value it; more people know of the Rose.

So when The Wall Street Journal asked me to go visit the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas late last year, I was interested for that reason alone. I’d never been to the Meadows — aka “The Prado on the Prairie” — although it will celebrate its 50th year in 2015. I knew the Meadows’ big ambitions — I’d already mentioned here, in 2010, that the Prado had forged a partnership with the Meadows, and I was curious to see how it had so far turned out. I also knew that it had just purchased a Goya, a portrait of his grandson that, though once owned by the legendary collector George Embiricos, and not seen publicly in more than 40 years, had failed to sell at Sotheby’s a year ago.

MeadowsCalatravaThe result of my trip in is in tomorrow’s WSJSpanish Meadows: A Cultural Conversation with Mark Roglan.

The short answers are the Meadows seems to be thriving, though attendance is just 50,000 a year — that’s not bad for Dallas but I think it could do better. Much of the permanent collection was in storage while I was there, sent there to make room for a special exhibition, Sorolla and America, but the central gallery, jam-packed with paintings and sculptures hung salon-style, certainly offered interesting works and I saw some more in storage. The director, Mark Roglan, is certainly energetic.

I also liked the fact that the Meadows is collecting contemporary Spanish art — and I’ve posted two sculptures here, Calatrava (bottom) and Plensa (top), which struck me as the best I’d seen there.

I did not get a picture of that central gallery (I was concentrating on my interviewing there), but below is a view of the oval gallery on the first floor, hung traditionally.



If you’re in Dallas/Fort Worth — go.

Photo Credits: © Judith H. Dobrzynski 




  1. Rosemary Vidal says

    This is a museum i have wanted to visit and I’m looking forward to your article in the WSJ tomorrow!

  2. Gregg Gustafson says

    I’m an alum of SMU and agree that this is a gem of a museum. In addition to the works you covered, I also found works by Noguchi, Henry Moore, Jerry Bywaters and James Surls to be equally fascinating.

    • Thanks for writing: I believe those non-Spanish works belong to the University collection, which is managed by the Meadows.

      • Scott Winterrowd says

        The sculpture collection was given in honor of Mr. Meadows second wife and is part of the Meadows collection. That is why there is Giacometti, Smith, Noguchi, Maillol, Marini, Moore, Noguchi, Lipchitz, Rodin, Rickey and Oldenburg alongside the Spanish works. The museum does manage the University Art Collection and its main strength is 20th century Texas art (Bywaters/Surls etc.).

  3. Mark E. Jacobs says

    I live in Dallas. I regularly visit the Meadows. It is a gem! The latest show on Sorolla is great. Most exhibits are quite interesting and managable. Definately worth a visit. The SMU campus is also very nice and is worth just walking arouond.

  4. Let me add my thanks and gratitude for your comments above and the well done aritcle in WSJ today. It is time for this very unique Museum to get it’s share of exposure. I attend frequently to see all special exhibits and when in Dallas with a few hours to spare I always find myself at the Meadows. Exterior I find the building a bit boxey and uninteresting but the galleries inside are perfect. The many rooms and the layout provide for easy enjoyment and the flow is well thoght out. Do come back when the permanent collection is hanging. It is a joy to exxperience so many pieces that are representative of the breadth of Spanish Art. I too am overjoyed that the Meadows is colllecting Modern Spanish Art as well.

    I also might add, these gallery rooms are absolutely perfect for a chorale or instrumental concert by our very own Orchestra of New Spain here in Dallas. To hear music performed in a room where the very persons who commissioned the music hang in protrait is a delightful experience.

  5. Jim VanKirk says

    I wish I could agree with you but I don’t. I know the Meadows pretty well and yet I still wish they would be content with classic Spanish Art scholarship. I have seen several institutions throw away millions and waste valuable time chasing a slippery contemporary Art scene better left to contemporary institutions designed solely for that purpose.

    • I’m not sure the Meadows is chasing contemporary art — after all, it just dropped a big proportion of its acquisitions fund on the Goya. Roglan did show me a few recent contemporary paintings, not to my taste, but I do like most of the sculpture I saw, including the two I showed here.

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