FIRST LOOK: DMA’s new conservation studio

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Mark Leonard, formerly of the Getty in L.A., outside the Paintings Conservation Studio at the Founders Room inside the DMA. It officially opens to the public Nov. 22.

Almost since I moved to Dallas and began working Downtown, an upper-floor space of the Dallas Museum of Art was 1717 Restaurant. Back in the day, it was one of the trendiest places in Dallas for lunch (it wasn’t opened for dinner), but all things end. It went through a number of iterations and changes, and for the last 18 months or so has largely been an event space for cocktail parties, but not a true restaurant. And now even that is gone.

And what’s in its place is even better.

What was 1717 is now an exhibit and social space, but most importantly, an atelier where the DMA’s head of conservation, Mark Leonard, gets to give the public an idea of what he and his fellow art restorers do.

The entrance is The Conservation Gallery, a rotating exhibit of artwork that has often been confined to the storage space at the DMA. These rarely seen works all have one thing in common: They have been restored, or are in need of restoration. And that gives the viewing public a chance to see a kind of before-and-after.

Not only that, most of the pieces will be exhibited so that both the fronts and back of the paintings are visible, offering a glimpse into the creative process — how the artist started on one idea, flipped the canvas over, and started on a whole new one.

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The restoration room.

But the most exciting part of all is the Paintings Conservation Studio. Designed by Samuel Anderson, it adds skylights permitting natural light to flood the studio, where Leonard and his team bring new life to Old Masters. The space is equipped with a first-of-its-kind x-ray that allows conservationists to see below the top level of oil paint to the art below. And while the general public won’t be allowed to enter the studio (there’s not a lot of room, except to make mischief), I got a first-look at it and the entire space, and it’s very impressive.

The Conservation Gallery and Founders Room will open to the public on Friday. Like the rest of the general exhibits at the DMA, admission is free.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Maxwell Anderson, the DMA’s new director

IMG_2436Although the words exact didn’t escape his lips during his meeting with the press, Maxwell Anderson, who ascended to the job as new director of the Dallas Museum of Art early last month, doesn’t seem to think a show like the Gaultier exhibit is the direction an institution like the DMA should head in.

Museums shouldn’t be “entertainment centers that have an attached research center,” he said. “Creativity is more important that counting bodies through the door. As much as I love to see crowds, that is a for-profit goal, not a museum goal.”

Such a statement might read as fightin’-words in the consumerist heaven of Big D. But Anderson — who until last year ran the respected Indianapolis Museum of Art and has career history that includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art in his native New York City (although he has ties to Texas: His wife’s family lives in Houston) — projects something else: Not contempt for success, not a prissy elitism, but a desire to turn the DMA into a premiere national institution.

The timing is fortuitous. Anderson admires the Arts District and the DMA’s role as one of its anchors. “The Arts Distruct was [a step] in building this necklace of [art venues],” he said.

And he’s focused on spending his first 100 days (he’s got about 60 left) meeting with community leaders (and the press) to develop priorities. But he’s not the kind who seems to want to cater to the lowest common denominator … nor turn the museum into an acquisition machine. (Running a premiere museum “is not acquisitions alone — it’s a paradigm shift,” he said.) He has already declared “green, ethical, edicational” goals as chief among his interests for the DMA. And that includes taking advantage of the DMA’s already sizeable collection that is not on display.

That’s another one of his first-100-day goals. And it’s a good one. Most of Anderson’s goals seem to be. Though we still would like to see shows like Gaultier come back. Just a thought.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier at the DMA

Gaultier gets his proper due

The world has ooh-ed and ahh-ed 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!

DEETS: DMA, 1717 N. Harwood St. Through Feb. 12. $16–$20. DallasMuseumofArt.org.

—  Rich Lopez

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

Former Mayor Laura Miller wants you to become a member of the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas

GLFD’s Dick Peeples, from left, Enrique MacGregor, and Mark Niermann at the opening of the Holocaust Museum’s “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals” exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, which they helped sponsor.

The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas is becoming a membership organization. Former Mayor Laura Miller will be on hand for the kickoff event in September.

Until now, the organization’s money was raised through events, but the group is now soliciting memberships. A basic “Friend” annual membership fee is $50. For $200, the “Advocate” level also includes two invitations to an annual member appreciation event. The $500 “Philanthropic Partner” level also includes optional website recognition.

Former Mayor Miller will be the special guest at the membership event on Tuesday, Sept. 13 in the Fifth Floor Owners’ Lounge at The House at Victory Park, 2200 Victory Park Ave. at 6 p.m. Valet parking will be available. Everyone is invited, but an R.S.V.P. is requested at GLFD.org or by emailing Keith Nix.

—  David Taffet