SEX… in a fashion

The DMA’s exhibit on the fashions of Jean Paul Gaultier exudes sex appeal with a big dose of flamboyance


DRESSED TO KILL IT | Gay fashion pioneer Jean Paul Gaultier oversees his own exhibit (Below) as an Animatronic mannequin, a fascinating technology that only accentuates the brilliance of the designs. (Photography by Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)


ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

For a man best known for creating the Valkyrie-like conical breastplate that shot Madonna into the pop culture stratosphere, Jean Paul Gaultier is a surprisingly humble person. While he’s clearly delighted to have his fashions on display — as they are at the Dallas Museum of Art in the traveling exhibit The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, which runs through February — he makes one thing plain: He does not consider fashion “art.”

“My work is not art,” he says flatly. “My job is to make clothes that have to be worn. My role is not to create in the abstract but to be inspired by the needs and desires of the people. So I am in service to that. Art is art — it is a personal vision of the artist.” He pauses, then adds with a smile, “My collections are my babies, though.”

While the designer himself may not consider his work product “art” in an academic sense, there are probably few who would agree with him. More so than most fashion designers, Jean Paul Gaultier’s style is instantly recognizable, even without seeing the label.

He almost single-handedly moved the bustier from the boudoir to the arena stage, cladding Madonna in a corset for her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990, immediately making legends of them both.

It’s not just brassieres, but lace bodysuits, silk leotards, men in skirts — Gaultier takes fashion rules and sets them on their heads, turning out wearable art (there, we said it) that is both old-fashioned, even classical, and futuristic — but always oozing sex.

“My love for fashion belongs to the fact I saw a movie from the 1940s when I was 12,” he says. “In the movie, they did a beautiful description of couture.” (Now, when he works with a film director — as he did recently with Pedro Almodovar on The Skin I Live In, or Luc Besson on several films — “it is like I return to that [moment]”.)

But really, the germ of his style was started by what a pre-teen Jean Paul found in his grandmother’s wardrobe.

“I was fascinated by the whole world of my grandmother’s closet — it was beautiful and different,” he says. “It was underwear that could be worn as outerwear. I stole my ideas from her.”

Though not just her. Gaultier was inspired by television, by old movies, by showgirls — anything that offered a view of beauty he could re-imagine on the runway.

“My definition of beauty — there’s not one type. Beauty is beauty — you can find it in different places,” he says.

It’s a keystone not only of his design style, but of the DMA’s astonishingly exciting exhibit. (Anyone who doesn’t think a Gaultier gown deserves formal museum treatment obviously hasn’t seen the show.) In just a handful of rooms, we move from camp to punk — with many, many visits to edgy haute couture.

In the first gallery, visitors are introduced to Gaultier himself, talking about his fashions via a quasi-Animatronic mannequin that captures his actual face and voice, projected with unnerving authenticity. That happens with a lot of the mannequins, some of whom seem to look back, even judge you. (One Mohawk’d man in tights and a codpiece seemed to be flirting with me; I bet he does that with all the boys.) Lanky sailor boys in striped Apaché T-shirts look as if they leaped from a Tom of Finland drawing; that cone bra is also unmistakable.

Walk further, and the second room oozes the dark romance of a bordello, approximating (with its window-like display cases) the red-light district of Amsterdam. “I think when you exit this room, they should give you a cigarette,” I told another patron. She didn’t disagree.

Another room shows the movement of the pieces, sort of, with a moving catwalk that is like a time machine of Gaultier runway fashions, including representative designs from his famous Men in Skirts that took MOMA by storm some years ago. That’s only the most obvious example of the genderbending that is a Gaultier hallmark — and a central theme of the sexual forthrightness of the DMA’s exhibit.

“Androgyny is part of the thing that interests me,” he says, “that moment when the young can pass to adolescence [and] their beauty is between feminine and masculine at the same time. I use it to show in reality how [both sexes] can assume [the identity of the other sex]. In Scotland, you will see me in kilts and they are very masculine — it’s not feminine to wear a skirt [in that context].”

That, Gaultier says, is the essence of freedom, showing that “men can cry just as well as women can fight.”

And this exhibit shows that a designer can be an artist with a bold sense of sex — even if he doesn’t think so.



Visit DallasVoice. com/ category/ Photos to see more of the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best Bets • 11.11.11

Saturday 11.12IMG_1929

We’ll fall for these Con men
With more than 150 artists auctioning off their art and for cheap (opening bid is still $20), Art Con 7 is both the best place for snagging original art and a flat out blast. With live music by the Hope Trust, KERA’s Rawlins Gilliland as auctioneer and all of it benefiting Musical Angels that provides free piano lessons to hospitalized children, it’s unparalleled in offering a fulfilling night.

511 W. Commerce St.
7 p.m. $10.


Sunday 11.13

Gaultier gets his proper due
The world has oohed and ahhed over designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s striking fashions for years, but from afar. The Dallas Museum of Art brings the designer’s work up close in the highly anticipated exhibit The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. The exhibit includes not only his fashions, but an animatronic mannequin of the designer. And it talks!

1717 N. Harwood St. Through
Feb. 12. $16–$20.


Thursday 11.17

The man still is a “Work of Art”
Even with more than 30 years in the music industry, Morrissey still retains an air of mystery. That’s part of his mystique. Sure we’ve discovered tidbits about the former Smiths singer, but his hidden side is part of his allure and odd sex appeal.

McFarlin Auditorium,
6405 Boaz Lane.
8 p.m. $40–$50.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Saturday fundraiser raises close to $5 mil for DMA and amfAR

Untitled (In and Out of the Darkness Face 43.01) by Mark Grotjahn

The star-studded Two x Two for AIDS and Art benefit dinner  and art auction reached a record with an astounding $4.8 million sold in art and other items. The money raised will benefit amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research and the Dallas Museum of Art. Not too shabby. And neither was the event.

Held at the Rachofsky House, the night included appearances by actor Stanley Tucci, singer Patti LaBelle and emceed by Tony-winner John Benjamin Hickey, also a 2011 Two x Two co-chair. Designer Kenneith Cole and amfAR chairman offered remarks. The Saturday event was a sell-out.

“This record-breaking year is testament to the generous donations by artists and dealers worldwide,” Howard Rachofsky said in the press release.  “The artwork by Mark Grotjahn and its $1 million selling price in the live auction took us over the top. Both Cindy and I are speechless. The audience and bidders continue to recognize the outstanding work of both these important institutions and put their hearts and money into this event.”

The $1 million bid for Grotjahn’s Untitled (In and Out of the Darkness Face 43.01), pictured, was the highest on any one piece in the history of the event.

—  Rich Lopez

There’s no place like home

With the Mavs’ victory and the Super Bowl, all eyes are on Dallas lately. But many locals don’t know just what Uptown has to offer

CLANG CLANG CLANG WENT THE … | Uptown’s trolley service has a history and plans for expansion. Best of all, it’s free. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

Every year, when they bring in travel journalists from all over the world to promote Dallas as a gay destination, the Tavern Guild shows them everything the city has to offer a visitor. (See sidebar.) Just this week, all eyes were on Victory Park as the Mavericks won their first NBA championship title. In other words, lots of people from outside have had Uptown Dallas on the brain.
So let me ask: Where, exactly, is Uptown?

There’s a lot even Dallas natives don’t know about the Oak Lawn-adjacent neighborhood. And that’s something the local association is trying to change.

Uptown, officially, is just a single square mile, bordered roughly to the south by Woodall Rodgers Freeway, to the west by the Katy Trail, to the east by North Central Expressway and to the north by Haskell Street. But they’ve packed a ton of stuff in that district: Five hotels, all pretty high end (the Stoneleigh, the Ritz-Carlton, the Crescent Court, Zaza and the Hotel St. Germain); 90 bars and restaurants; three live theaters … and tons of gay folks, of course.

Uptown didn’t used to be “up;” it used to be “low.” When the plans were drafted in the 1980s for construction on the Crescent, the area was described as “Lower Oak Lawn,” which is how many in the gayborhood still see it. But Uptown has some attractions unique to it.

Not the least of these is the McKinney Avenue Trolley system, which circles Uptown before crossing over the Woodall canyon and dead-ending on St. Paul Street between the Dallas Museum of Art and the Fairmont Hotel. That’ll change soon; plans are underway to extend the end of the line and make it a true loop. That should add to the 390,000 riders who hopped one of the three trolleys in 2010. And best of all, they rode them for free.

If you haven’t ridden the trolley yet, it merits your time. Because they are antiques, these are not cookie-cutter light rail trains but variously sized, one-of-a-kind streetcars loaded with history. One of the cars is 101 years old; one has distinctly European styling; they come from as far away as Australia, and run on tracks that won’t need to be repaired for decades.

One trolley trip can take you from right next to Stephan Pyles Restaurant back up McKinney Avenue, where you can grab a cocktail at Sambuca and an appetizer from Fearing’s across the street; up toward State-Thomas, which hides some hip bars like The Nodding Donkey; and past the West Village where Cork has a variety of wines. And you’re just a few paces from the Cityplace DART stop, so you don’t have to drive home after indulging.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Hi, Mom!

Gay siblings Brian and Erica Felicella give their mom props for…. well, for pretty much everything

SIBLING UN-RIVALRY | Thanks to Mom (and Dad), Brian Felicella, left, and sister Erica thrive in their creative pursuits as chef and photographer. (Photo courtesy Erica Felicella)

When a mother hears the words “I’m gay,” from her child, there is likely an initial shock, maybe followed by dying dreams of grandchildren. But when that happens twice — well, it might take an extra special mom to work that all out.
Photographer Erica Felicella and her brother Brian, an executive chef at the Dallas Museum of Art Cafe, recall that moment with Mom when they learned just how awesome she is.

Mom and baby sis Tara, who is straight, got in a few words as well.

Happy Mother’s Day!

— Rich Lopez


First born: Erica
Dallas Voice: What makes your mom unique? Wow, there really is no short way to answer that. That mom of mine still can run circles around me. There was no challenge too big if it involved fighting for what was right for her children. If I was to say one trait that makes my mom unique, boundless acceptance and support no matter what comes along.

How was she when you came out? I came out in high school. My mother was my mother. She has always taught me to treat everything and everyone with respect. So as in her own teachings she was there in a time when other friends of mine were being kicked out of their homes or disowned by their family. I am eternally grateful to have the mother that I do. The bottom line has always been to love unconditionally.

Do you ever share “girly” moments with her? [Laughs] Most mothers and daughters do girly things I suppose, but that was not how my mom and I spend time together. It is not a bizarre sight to drive up to my parents house and see my mom in the front yard with a jackhammer doing some gardening, covered in mud doing a quick sprinkler repair or watching a Red Sox game — after all, we are transplanted Yanks.

What are you going to do for Motherʼs Day? I will be in Dallas as will my brother and my sister. However, we did a surprise photo shoot and the photo should arrive at my parents’ doorstep in time for Motherʼs Day.

Whatʼs the best thing about her? My mother is a 5-foot-2 Irish-Leo. She is the one we all turn to in moments of sadness, feats of personal victory and times of new discovery. She is the root that things can grow off of.

Supportive? I am a multimedia fine-artist, mentor to young artists and I work in production and post-production in the commercial world of still photography and video. My mother has been there every step of the way. I have always had her support even when she did not know what the heck I was working on. She has been on set with me, worked as an agent and advocate for me when I was starting. She was the bartender at my first solo show. She is a real life superhero to me and I am one lucky gal to have her.

The son also rises: Brian
What is your motherʼs best feature? Her compassion and ability to love endlessly even when it could be hard to love someone she still finds it in her.

How did she react when you came out? If I remember correctly she said, “OK.” I was in college between sophomore and junior year and was freaking out about the call. When I finally got the courage to call, both my mom and dad were on the phone and the main thing that was said was, “We don’t love you any less.”

What is your favorite mom memory? Recently I called and asked how she knew she was in love with my father. That was conversation that I will remember for the rest of my life.

What was your best Motherʼs Day experience? Talking her out to lunch back in 2006. I drove down to San Antonio early in the morning to surprise her on Mother’s Day. Just having time with her these days is a gift.

How did she react to your most rebellious moment? Which one? I have never been one to go with the norm so my tattooed and pierced friends were never a shock. In my darkest place, she never turned her back on me. Drugs and alcohol can tear a family apart but she never lost hope in me. For more normal rebellious moments, she never asked me to change my hair color if it was blue or green, but at times did request a hat when we went to dinner as a family.

Supportive? I am currently an executive chef at the DMA, which is the second major career path I have taken. She has always been supportive on the choices in my life concerning work. She was helpful getting me on track and offering to send me back to school to study the culinary arts. I have been blessed with a family that has my back no matter and a mother that will pull out the boxing gloves when someone messes with her kids. She really has put herself out on the line to raise my sisters and me.

The baby: Tara
What was it like when they came out to you? When my brother came out I found he was getting harassed at college. This was the same college I graduated from and that really disappointed me. It wasn’t really a shock, it was more of “glad you’re comfortable enough to say it.”

How is the family dynamic? I don’t feel she treats any of us differently based on orientation. If you do something stupid, you do something stupid. If someone broke your heart, someone broke your heart. If whoever your dating or engaged to is being an pain, your partner is being a pain. If she doesn’t like who you are dating, she won’t ever tell you. I don’t really think she bases her advice on that. She gives us the same advice.

Do you feel pressure to produce grandchildren? She doesn’t need grandkids — she has three granddogs.

Mother’s turn: Maggie
What does Motherʼs Day mean to you? It reminds me how lucky I am to be a mom. There are highs and lows that come along with that job but I remember the highs.

So, a proud mama. My children are very kind and caring individuals. They have grown into adulthood nicely. I have always been proud of them as human beings and continue to be. They see all people as equals and treat all people as they wish to be treated. They are good kids!

What was it like when they came out to you? As parents, we have the dreams of weddings and grandchildren. We had to digest how things would be different. As parents, you want to shield your children from hurt and harm. We didn’t know how we were going to do that but we figured it out along the way. In the end, they are our children and that is all that matters.

Was it at the same time or different? Erica was the first to tell us she was a lesbian. She was still in high school. She came down the stairs, sat on the coffee table, started spinning around and announced, “I am a lesbian.” Then she got up off the table and went back upstairs to her friends. Brian called from college and left a message, “Mom, I need to speak with you and Daddy.” I told my husband, he is calling to tell us he is gay. When he called, he was stumbling over his words. I finally said, “Brian are you trying to tell us you are gay?” He was shocked and relieved at the same time.

OK, so what about the grandchildren issue? I don’t dwell on grandchildren. If they happen, they will; if not, they won’t. I have three grand dogs and they have their own stockings at Christmas. I know I won’t have to help pay for college. I always look for the bright side over every issue!

Just like a mom.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Weekly Best Bets

Friday 01.21

Get Max-ed out on pop art

Despite painting presidents and celebrities, artist Peter Max will verge either on blasphemy or on genius when his work shows here. Using Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns football helmets as canvases, Max applies his vibrant colors to iconic Texas images. We say “awesome.”

DEETS: Wisby-Smith Fine Art, 500 Crescent Court. Through Jan. 30.

Saturday 01.22

A voice as smooth as silk

Yes, Johnny Mathis might be the stuff parents or grandparents are made of, but give him another  listen. He hasn’t been at this for more than five decades because he’s a slouch. The quietly out Mathis is a crooner and class act right up there with Tony Bennett, but without the retro appeal and MTV specials. He must have some appeal because we hear this show is sold out.

DEETS: Bass Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth. 8 p.m. $29–$80.

Friday 01.28

There is more than ‘Brokeback’

Annie Proulx captured the soul of gay love with  her story ‘Brokeback Mountain’ that originally appeared in the New Yorker. Other works have garnered attention but she’s back with her first nonfiction book, Bird Cloud, which she’ll discuss at Arts & Letters Live in Horchow Auditorium.

DEETS: Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St. 7:30 p.m. $37.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

Art you ready for some…art?

Contemporary art gets some play time with DMA’s Big New Field exhibit

PLAYING THE FIELD | Franz Ackerman’s ‘My Ready Now’ splashes color into the exhibit while Gonzales’ ‘Carousel Club’ recalls Dallas history.

Dallas Museum of Art,
1717 Harwood St.  $10.
Through Feb. 20.



The last person you’d think of taking to a contemporary art show is that beer-guzzling, La-Z-Boy sitting pal/partner/relative glued to a Sunday’s worth of televised football. Why would he (or she) want to look at random smatterings of paint flicked on a canvas when there’re refs to be yelled at?

But combining the sports and art worlds — without LeRoy Neiman in sight? The Dallas Museum of Art has done that for you.

In Big New Field, the museum showcases selected works by artists whose works are also part of the installations on view at Cowboys Stadium. With Super Bowl XLV approaching in February, sports fans will get more than an eyeful of art at the complex. But New Big Field successfully previews those works in a quieter setting — and for those of us not making it to the game. It should be noted that this isn’t art depicting sports.

“The art program at Cowboys Stadium has enriched the North Texas art community with a unique commissioning program that bring together sports fans and art aficionados,” says the DMA’s Bonnie Pittman.

Art fans win with an eclectic selection that’s mind-boggling and awe-inspiring at the same time. Although the exhibit opens with the kind of contemp art where people will respond, “I could’ve done that.”

What that means is it opens weakly: Two wall installations introduce Field but with lackluster appeal and convey immediate pretension that non-fans will slam.

Lawrence Weiner’s typographical art of phrases doesn’t offer strong intent and the opposing wall of stripes broken up into small frames by Daniel Buren won’t win anyone over immediately.

The treasures come quickly after, though. Walk into the next room, and the exhibit mixes painting and sculpture in fascinating ways. Many of the works play on the eye’s sense of dimension. Annette Lawrence’s Free Paper answers what to do with all those Dallas Morning News circulars for neighborhood sales. She takes junk mail, rips it into specific-sized strips and chronologically stacks the trash into this mixed-media piece. The guide talks about art mixing with ecological sensibilities, but this really just reminds me how pissed off I get when I keep trying to unsubscribe from those circulars. Its 3-D effect creates an exciting texture.

There’s nothing ugly-duckling about it, because a swan it doesn’t make. Instead, it’s an interesting timeline that really signifies waste in artistic fashion.

The project piece The outside of inside shows a variety of geometric shapes centered by a silver ball bearing on the wall. This trippy slideshow plays with the mind and eyes as you focus on the ball. Overlapping boxes turn into triangles and images imprint on your vision after they are long gone. The 12-minute run is hypnotic and fun actually. We forget what art can do in its various forms and Olafur Eliasson reminds what an impression, even if whimsical, it can make.

What should be the centerpiece is Wayne Gonzales’ Carousel Club. His rendition of matchbook art from Jack Ruby’s famous club is both elementary and exquisite. He conveys vintage Dallas nightlife with the club’s logo, the bare-bottomed girl and cocktail. The acrylic on canvas is lush in red and would make most people drool with envy. If it weren’t for the lurking docent, I would have hidden this in my jacket and put it up in the living room stat.

Big New Field works beautifully here and the larger works of each artist at Cowboys Stadium are equally impressive. The works are bold and represent the broad spectrum of contemporary art, even in some of its lingering pieces. The show, made possible by Two X Two for AIDS and Art, amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS

Research and the DMA, still may have to try harder to reach those sports fans who aren’t art fans, but at the very least, they will probably say ‘That’s cool.” Hey, it’s a start.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay film director James Ivory at SMU for screenings of his works this week

James Ivory

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Ivory will not be in attendance for the Q&A sessions tonight and tomorrow. Those will be hosted by Sean Griffin. Ivory will be doing his master class today. I regret the error.

James Ivory, who with his collaborator and partner Ismail Merchant made some of the best period dramas of the last 30 years, is coming to Dallas for a series organized by the SMU Division of Cinema-Television’s gay chair, Sean Griffin.

Ivory’s best-known films as a director, which netted him three Oscar nominations, include A Room with a View, Howards End and The Remains of the Day, but his output also includes the gay coming-of-age romance Maurice, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge and his last film with Merchant (who died in 2005), The White Countess.

Ivory, who despite his European/colonial sensibilities is American, will participate in a series of master classes and presentations of three films (followed by Q&As) on consecutive days this week: Heat and Dust on Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m.; Surviving Picasso on Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m.; and The Remains of the Day on Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. (two Merchant-directed films will also be screened). All showings take place inside the Horchow Auditorium at the Dallas Museum of Art. For tickets, go here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What’s so gay about Idea Week?

Raise your hand — how many of you know that this is Idea Week? All righty then.

You might have seen it buzzing around on Twitter and Facebook, but Idea Week is kind of a great idea which you can read more about on the link. Wednesday’s Pecha Kucha event I wrote about is one of the events throughout the week which will feature Cathey Miller and Rawlins Gilliland as presenters and repping the LGBT community. Artistic director Kevin Moriarty also reps when he speaks Thursday at the Dallas Museum of Art on the State of the Arts with DMA director Bonnie Pitman, KERA’s Jeff Whittington and Creative Time president Anne Pasternak.

Nice to see the LGBT community partake in the events going on even in a peripheral way. But I thought, we could do a little more ideating (as they call it). So I posed the question to a few colleagues around the office with no other direction: What’s you’re big idea?

Read ’em below.

—  Rich Lopez

Applause • Thoroughly modern Jeffrey

Jeffrey Grove, the DMA’s new gay curator of Contemporary Art, takes a forward-thinking approach to keeping art — and museums — vibrant

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer

Jeffrey Grove
Jeffrey Grove, who came to the Dallas Museum of Art last fall as its first titled curator of Contemporary Art, poses in the museum’s sculpture garden. Photography by Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Museum of Art
1717 Harwood St. The Jeffrey Grove-curated Luc Tuymans exhibit
continues through Sept. 5. Tuesdays–Sundays, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. (open until 9 p.m. Thursdays). $10. 214-922-1200.

For Jeffrey Grove, modern art is more than just a paint-splattered canvas or the iconic portrait of a soup can; it’s a way of life. The Dallas Museum of Art’s newly minted Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art boasts stints at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In addition to being the first person at the museum to hold the modern art curator title, there’s one particular item on Grove’s extensive resume that always piques the most curiosity: “Founding curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.”

“It’s everyone’s favorite part of my history,” Grove says with a grin. “And a very fun place.”

Originally a student of industrial design, Grove began his career wanting to make objects, but along the way he became more interested in the history of the things themselves — and consequently developed a passion for art history. After receiving a master’s degree in archeology and art history from the University of Missouri, Grove received a doctorate in art history from Case Western Reserve University.

While studying art, Grove simultaneously began immersing himself in artists’ culture and the act of staging small shows.
“I really wanted to help artists translate their ideas — you know, be a facilitator,” he says. And his career as curator was born.
Grove arrived at the Dallas Museum of Art last September to help its department of Contemporary Art with exhibitions, programming, publications and acquisitions. One of his immediate large-scale projects was coordinating the presentation of the first U.S. retrospective of the work of the Belgian painter Luc Tuymans. Jointly organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts, the installation showcases Tuymans’ interest in interiors, landscapes and figural representations. Among the highlights of this particular showing are six additional works by the artist on loan from Dallas residents, on view through Sept. 5.

In conjunction to the installation, Grove has coordinated a sculptural installation to supplement the artist’s iconic works entitled Mass and Material: Sculpture Since the 1960s, featuring work by artists Barry Le Va, Charles Ray and Bruce Nauman, among others. It runs through Oct. 24.

“It’s the first solo show I have done [at the DMA]. It’s drawn from Tuymans to be a compliment to the painting exhibition.”
Given the often unfamiliar and non-traditional nature of contemporary art, Grove faces a larger challenge than many other curators: How to get people to connect with the often abstract or misunderstood.

Over the years, Grove has developed numerous exhibitions, including the 1997 retrospective Fame & Misfortune dedicated to the life of LGBT icon Andy Warhol, a giant of contemporary art.

“You see his self portrait in magazines. He’s the [contemporary] artist that every school child knows and thinks is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” says Grove, who is also gay.

Nonetheless, he’s quick to squelch the notion that modern art must be explained away to be enjoyed.

“I don’t feel like people have to know it to appreciate the work, but certainly a more contextual knowledge creates an understanding of the artist’s situation, which leads to different identification the viewers’ part,” he says. “Didactic wall hangings, smart phones or someone like me giving you the information [are some of] the preferred ways.”

And because of the nature of contemporary art, the collection he oversees is always growing and changing. A quick look at his bookshelf brimming with muses, including gay artists like Jasper Johns and the late Texas Robert Rauschenberg, gives a hint to what’s on Grove’s wish list for the museum. However, he’s careful to add that the collection requires specific parameters when adding new acquisitions.

“[You must know] what compliments what is already here and really analyze the collection. Where it is going? Where can strengths be built? What is being collected in the community?” he notes, adding that he’s still working on all these questions having only been on the job less than a year.

Earlier this year, Grove led an after hours “walk & talk” for the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Dallas as part of its partnership with the DMA. It was a chance to introduce Grove to Dallas’ LGBT community while allowing participants to hear firsthand his unique perspective about the museum’s collection — witty quips and all.

With a bright view of the future, Grove sees a new dynamic in the way museums and individuals will continue to collect art, specifically modern art. “I think that the change will be in the distinction between private collecting and institutional collecting,” he says. “Speaking particularly about contemporary collecting, on a high level Dallas is already a pioneer in partnering with individuals and organizations to share acquisitions. ­­No great museum can afford to buy all the great art and keep pace with cultural production.”

As for staging his dream collection, Grove says, “stay tuned,” but should it not work out, he can always return to his bio highlight, a world of espionage and double agents. As he says, in a tone laced with sarcasm, “All the conspiracies are true: It’s all a way to support things like Salt.”

The Angelia Jolie spy movie? No, thanks. We prefer Grove in this day job working with some real art.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas