Meadows Museum celebrates the 20th anniversary of its 66,000-square-foot building

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Meadows Museum celebrates the 20th anniversary of its 66,000-square-foot building
Exterior of the Meadows Museum and its sculpture plaza with Santiago Calatrava’s Wave (2002) in foreground and Gerald J. Ford Stadium in background. Photo by Hillsman Jackson.

DALLAS, TX.- This year marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Meadows's 66,000-square-foot building, which is six times larger than the museum’s original space. Since its opening in 2001, the Meadows has become one of the most prominent university art museums in the country. It is internationally recognized for the quality of its collection of Spanish masterpieces by old masters to contemporary artists with one of the largest holdings of Spanish art outside of Spain. Artists represented include Velázquez, Ribera, El Greco, Murillo, Goya, Miró, Picasso and Dalí. Devotion to scholarship, innovative interpretation and prestigious partnerships with major art institutions and cultural organizations have made the Meadows a recognized champion of Spain's artistic achievements and an important international diplomatic partner. In celebration, the Meadows presents Building on the Boulevard: Celebrating 20 Years of the Meadows's New Home and the companion exhibition Fossils to Film: The Best of SMU's Collections, both on view March 14 through June 20, 2021.

"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,’" said 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."

Previously located in the Owen Arts Center, the Meadows’s new home—a freestanding, stately red-brick Collegiate Georgian building with an outdoor sculpture plaza and dedicated parking garage—provided 14,000 square feet of gallery space for major loan exhibitions and designated areas for the display of the permanent collection and to accommodate innovative educational programming. Designed by Chicago architectural firm Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge, the museum is now a prominent landmark on SMU's Bishop Boulevard located at the entrance to the campus. The facade is composed of five, two-story arches opening onto a loggia that serves as the main entrance. The first-floor houses a centrally placed grand staircase, special event spaces, a museum shop, additional galleries and education areas including a studio and auditorium. On the top floor, works from the permanent collection are bathed in natural light from expansive skylights while works on paper are presented in galleries designed to temper light to protect and preserve sensitive items. Over 4,000 square feet is designated for special exhibitions.

The new building opened in March 2001 with a historic royal visit. Their Majesties King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía of Spain dedicated the new Meadows Museum building with an International Festival of Opening Events. The royal event launched a cultural collaboration between the Meadows and Spain that endures today.

The 2001 inaugural exhibition, Poetics of Movement: The Architecture of Santiago Calatrava, was the first significant retrospective focused on the Spanish architect’s buildings and bridges in the United States. In celebration, Calatrava was commissioned to create a monumental sculpture to greet visitors as they arrived at the street level. Wave (2002), one of the first public sculptures by Calatrava in the U.S., is an 80-foot- long kinetic sculpture made up of 129 motorized bronze-coated steel beams aligned horizontally over a reflecting pool. The undulating work rises and falls in a wave-like motion.

Many of the museum’s accomplishments and widespread recognition over the past two decades reflect the ardent scholarship and steadfast leadership of the museum's director, Mark A. Roglán, who is also celebrating his 20th anniversary at the museum this year. In October 2001, Roglán, formerly a curatorial fellow at the Museo Nacional del Prado, joined the institution as curator and adjunct assistant professor of art history. In 2006 Roglán was promoted to museum director, and since then, the museum has increased attendance, developed a significant program of international loan exhibitions, created prestigious fellowships, produced important publications, and established strategic alliances with museums around the world. He championed major acquisitions, spearheaded the construction of a new sculpture garden and conceived new ways for visitors of all abilities to connect with works on display. Under Roglán’s leadership, the museum has earned international recognition for its groundbreaking exhibitions, scholarship and for expanding the appreciation of Spanish art in the United States.

Over the last two decades, the Meadows has acquired 250 exceptional works of art including Francisco de Goya's Portrait of Mariano Goya, the Artist's Grandson, (1827); Mariano Fortuny y Marsal's Beach at Portici (1874); Salvador Dalí's The Fish Man (L'homme poisson) (1930) and what is now the earliest painting in the collection, Pere Vall's Saints Benedict and Onophrius (c. 1410).

The 2009 renovation of the museum's sculpture plaza provided a dramatic entrance for museum visitors with a new tranquil fountain and reconfigured access stairs. Additional improvements included green lawns, gravel paths, shade trees, hedge plantings and inviting benches, as well as the Irwin Overlook, which made it possible to view Wave from above. Jaume Plensa's 13-foot-tall steel mesh sculpture, Sho (2007), was acquired in 2009 and provides a focal point for the remodeled plaza. Plensa's monumental head of a young girl is centrally located to receive visitors as they arrive at the museum entrance.

The spacious galleries dedicated to international loan exhibitions have hosted works from Spain's foremost museums including the Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Palacio Real and the Museo Arqueológico Nacional. On many occasions the Meadows debuted objects never before seen in the U.S., among them exhibitions of private collections, such as From Cranach to Monet: Highlights of the Pérez Simón Collection (2006), The Abelló Collection: A Modern Taste for European Masters (2015), and Treasures from the House of Alba: 500 Years of Art and Collecting (2015).

Significant contributions to the history of art, the result of extensive research, include the first complete catalogue raisonné of Jusepe de Ribera’s drawings—a joint publication with the Museo Nacional del Prado; the Meadows also presented the co- organized exhibition, Between Heaven and Hell: The Drawings of Jusepe de Ribera (2017). The exhibition Fernando Gallego and His Workshop: The Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo. Paintings from the Collection of the University of Arizona Museum of Art (2008) presented new technical analysis using x-radiography and infrared reflectography. For the first time, it revealed the differing drawing styles and working methods of Fernando, his younger relative Francisco, and their contemporary, the Master Bartolomé.

The museum’s prestigious partnership with the Museo Nacional del Prado provided the unique opportunity to research and display celebrated works from one of Spain’s most beloved institutions. With an eye to the future, in 2019 the museum announced a pioneering collaboration with Fundación ARCO, presenter of Spain's preeminent contemporary art fair, ARCOmadrid. This joint effort commits to the promotion of contemporary Spanish artists who have had limited exposure in the U.S. Meadows Museum curatorial fellowships support the next generation of art historians by providing pre- and postdoctoral students with professional and international experience through the museum’s curatorial department. Another first-of-its-kind, international cooperation was established in 2019, uniting Teatro Real Opera House in Madrid, The Dallas Opera and the Meadows in an innovative, creative exchange bridging together the visual and performing arts.

The nature of the Meadows's focused collection inherently provides opportunities for strong strategic alliances with Spain's distinguished art institutions. It also precipitates cooperation with Spanish state officials and cultural agencies. Roglán and the museum's leadership carefully cultivate these relationships. They regularly participate in diplomatic missions including the American Airlines inaugural flight to Madrid in 2009 and the Dallas Mayoral Economic missions in 2010 and 2013. The 2013 visit included a national press conference to promote the Meadows’s exhibition Sorolla and America, the first retrospective of the Spanish Impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla to focus on the artist's impact in the United States. The show traveled to Madrid's Fundación MAPFRE in 2014.

In addition to noted scholars and prominent museum directors the museum has also welcomed world leaders, nobility, and celebrities, among them His Holiness the Dalai Lama; President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush; Former Prime Ministers of Spain José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and José María Aznar; Former Prime Minister of the U.K. Margaret Thatcher; Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Martínez de Irujo, the 19th Duke of Alba; Cayetano Luis Martínez de Irujo y Fitz-James Stuart, the 4th Duke of Arjona; David Armstrong-Jones, the 2nd Earl of Snowdon; as well as celebrated actors Glenn Close and Owen Wilson and the acclaimed singer Tony Bennett.

Confirming the strength of the international alliance between the Meadows Museum and Spain, the King of Spain has bestowed one of the country’s greatest honors, the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Católica [Commander of the Order of Isabella the Catholic], upon Roglán and three Meadows Museum Advisory Council members: Janet Kafka, the Honorary Consul of Spain in Dallas; Linda Perryman Evans, former president and CEO of The Meadows Foundation; and Linda Custard, Meadows Museum Advisory Council Chair. The Order recognizes extraordinary conduct that contributes greatly to building friendship and cooperation between the Spanish nation and the rest of the international community.

Perhaps the most important diplomatic event recently hosted by the museum was the unprecedented 2019 conversation between the directors of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and New York’s MoMA, together with scholars and diplomats in order to address the Russian moratorium on loans to U.S. art museums. Roglán, who moderated the discussion, is a Fellow at SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Public Policy and International Affairs and initiated the diplomatic program in partnership with the Association of Art Museum Directors, of which he is a member. Following an insightful exchange, the participants agreed on their desire to end the ban on loans.
Still, they recognized the current challenging political relationship between the U.S. and Russia. The extraordinary event resulted in a pledge to work on "texts of mutual guarantees, joint demonstrative projects and pinpoint exchanges, as well as the creation of a bilateral agreement on the protection of exhibitions," as reported on the Hermitage’s website.

Building on the Boulevard is a tribute to these historic milestones and momentous events made possible by the elegant 2001 structure on Bishop Boulevard. The exhibition will feature architectural drawings as well as commemorative didactic installations, important acquisitions, materials celebrating the impressive international loan exhibitions and innovations in educational programming.

The companion exhibition Fossils to Film: The Best of SMU's Collections, celebrates the museum's unique association with the University. For the first time, the Meadows will host highlights from nine distinct campus collections including the Underwood Law Library, G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, the Shuler Museum of Paleontology, DeGolyer Library, the Department of Anthropology’s Archaeological Research Collections, Bridwell Library and the noted University Art Collection. Managed by the Meadows Museum, the University Art Collection is comprised of works donated by alumni and friends of SMU in which prominent Texas artists, including the influential artists Jerry Bywaters and Otis Dozier, are featured. These collections are among the most important of their kind in North Texas. Over 100 exquisite works of art, intriguing artifacts and rare specimens will be on display, many of which will be exhibited outside their home departments for the first time. From the age of dinosaurs to the present, these diverse holdings include the earliest surviving crocodile skull in Texas, the only surviving footage of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 visit to Dallas and the earliest textual manuscript in the state. These items are comprised of donations as well as university acquisitions and groundbreaking discoveries uncovered at excavations by SMU faculty, staff and students.

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