Dallas Cowboys Launch New Contemporary Art Program

August 12, 2009 · Print This Article

Yes, you heard that right — the Dallas Cowboys are launching a new contemporary art program that, according to their press release, will be “an ongoing initiative to commission contemporary artists to create monumental, site-specific installations for the recently completed Cowboys Stadium.”

In time for the first regular-season game against the New York Giants on September 20th, the entry ramps, staircases, pedestrian ramps, concession stands and other prominent areas of the team’s new 1.5 billion dollar stadium will be adorned with works by a number of big-name artists, including Franz Ackermann, Mel Bochner, Daniel Buren, Olafur Eliasson, Annette Lawrence, Dave Muller, Matthew Ritchie and Lawrence Weiner, the organization announced last Friday. The Dallas Cowboys Art Program is funded entirely by Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones and his wife Gene, who are both prominent contemporary art collectors.

Serving on the advisory board are The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s Michael Auping, Charles Wylie of the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas collectors Howard Rachofsky and Gayle Stoffel, and San Francisco art advisor Mary Zlot, among others.

I’m fascinated by this new program, and I even find it kind of heartwarming in a mom and apple-pie sort of way. And not only because of the discordant pairing of art and football (because really — why not?). It took real chutzpah on the Jones’ part to focus not on cheesy murals of football heroes or the like, but on artworks that are sure to provoke bemusement on the part of some fans. But also, hopefully, a sense of genuine pleasure and even ownership will develop over time.

“Hey–let’s walk through that weird light show again before going to our seats! It’s by some artist guy with a funny name…I don’t remember who, but the thing is so cool!”

That’s good enough for me. It would be great, however, to see a slightly more robust representation of women artists among those included in this laudable new program’s starting lineup. I mean, chicks dig football too. (Or some of them do, maybe not this one, but that’s besides the point).  How cool would it be to see a kick-ass Nancy Rubins sculpture installed on the premises, or a commissioned Jenny Holzer LED screen added to this mix?

Here’s what Jerry and Gene Jones said about the program in last week’s Fort Worth Weekly:

“From top to bottom, we’re taking a whole new approach to what a national sports arena can be,” said Jerry Jones. “Cowboys Stadium isn’t just a place to go and see a game or a concert. It’s an experience you share with your family and your community. That will include things that a lot of people wouldn’t anticipate seeing at a stadium — like contemporary art. Football is full of the unexpected and the spontaneous — it can make two strangers into friends. Art has the power to do that too, to get people talking, and looking, and interacting. It’s not just about what you see on the field or on the wall. It’s about creating exciting experiences.”

Gene Jones said, “We’re breathing new life into a tradition that extends back to the Greeks and Romans, who integrated the art of their time in stadiums where the best athletes gathered to compete. The Art Program at Cowboys Stadium brings this dialogue between art and sport into the modern day. We’re making it possible for some of the world’s leading contemporary artists to create work on a scale unimaginable anywhere else and we’re connecting new audiences with their work.”

And here’s the full list of artists included in the current program:

Franz Ackermann, Ricci Albenda, Mel Bochner, Daniel Buren, Olafur Eliasson, Teresita Fernandez, Terry Haggerty, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Jim Isermann, Annette Lawrence, Dave Muller, Matthew Ritchie, Gary Simmons, and Lawrence Weiner.

Thee Program will also sponsor acquisitions of work by Doug Aitken, Wayne Gonzales, Jacqueline Humphries, and a second work by Eliasson.

Mel Bochner, Win! (2009). Courtesy Marc Selwyn Fine Art. One of the works that will be on view at Cowboy's Stadium.

Mel Bochner, Win! (2009). Courtesy Marc Selwyn Fine Art. One of the works that will be on view at Cowboy's Stadium.

Annette Lawrence, Coin Toss. An installation in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

Annette Lawrence, Coin Toss. Installation on view in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

Get ready for lots of puff pieces in the Dallas papers about the head-scratching reactions football fans are having to the Stadium’s newest occupants. You can read the press release that contains full details on the program here.

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