I remember when the Dallas Museum of Art was constructed (its building – the first edifice in the Arts District, before that it was in Fair Park) – I was working in the now long-imploded Cotton Exchange building right next door. In those salad days, the museum was free and almost empty. I would go over at lunch, eat from a sack and look at my favorite sculpture – Rhythm in Space (now gone, I don’t know where) in the garden and then stroll past the Stake Hitch (gone too, sadly, controversially, and inexplicably) to see what was up.
That was a long time ago.
A few days back, looking ahead, I found information on the festivities in the Dallas Arts District on Friday Night. This was their Late Nights at The Museum where the place would be open until Midnight with all sort of activities scheduled. It was also the birthday of the museum and also, outside, the Crow Musuem of Asian Art would be celebrating Chinese New Year.
My intention was to leave from work and get down there at about six. I was exhausted, however, and went home for a quick power nap and a bite to eat (I ate at home to save money, there would be food trucks in the district) before I caught the train downtown.
I was glad that I had wolfed down that sandwich – sure enough, there were eight trucks in a double line along Flora Street, but they were engulfed in a massive crowd. The lines to get some vittles stretched out hundreds of yards.
I continued on down the street to the Crow. There was a dragon dancing in the middle of the street but I could not even see it through the massive throng of spectators. It looked cool, but I decided I would flee from this crowd by retreating into the Dallas Museum of Art.
That didn’t work. The museum was even more packed that the street outside. Everyone coming through the door was immediately directed into a long line to purchase admission tickets. Everybody (except me) was dressed to the nines. The The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is the exhibition that has all the town talking and everyone had dragged out their best fashions. There were two tall beautiful women wearing short metallic dresses in line behind me and we talked about a Lady Gaga lookalike contestant (there was going to be a contest later) that slowly tottered by. Her massive platforms made for difficult walking across the glass-smooth and rock-hard polished granite floors.
There were many Gagas in attendance – in many different incarnations. There was the big blonde hair and high platforms with sunglasses and fishnets mentioned above, a lot of long platinum wig with bangs and glued facial bling (Poker Face) and I saw one with drink cans in her hair (Telephone). I didn’t see anyone in a meat dress.
Before long, a young man in an expensive Italian suit walked up and gathered the women and their extensive entourage from the queue behind me and whisked them off. He had some sort of connections and was able to bypass the waiting. The line did move quickly and before long I had paid my ten dollars and received a little purple cardboard square that went around my wrist on an elastic band.
I fought my way through the thick and fashionable crowd to the restaurant area at the North End. The Dallas Museum o fArt is not set up to handle large crowds very well. There was a stage set up and a Madonna impersonator with two dancers were gyrating around, but it was almost impossible to see anything. A few folks had arrived earlier and taken possession of the few tables and were holding their turf like a Roman legion. The museum guards were rushing around making sure nobody leaned on a balcony edge or stood on a stairway, making it impossible for anyone else to get a glimpse of what was going on.
I have been to the museum hundreds of times, so I knew of a hidden little slit window up on the top floor that looked down onto the festivities. I walked up there and watched for a while.
For a couple of hours I walked the galleries. Back amongst the paintings, it was fairly empty, actually. The massive crowds were concentrated out in the main hall -where folks waited to get into the Gautier exhibition or simply milled around aimlessly.
I always criticize Dallas for not having a culture or a scene of its own. Now, with the rise of the Dallas Arts District and the explosion of people actually living there (Uptown, Downtown, the Cedars) there is a chance for something exciting to develop. Of course, that means I give up the experience I used to love – of being there almost by myself, of the feeling that all this was built just for me. It means fighting the crowds, which I don’t like. Of course, I can always find someplace else.
At ten I fought back into the festivities to listen to Brave Combo (another blog entry). Then I retreated back into the European Painting Galleries. Earlier, I had noticed a sign promoting a late night DJ back there promising, “Stroll through the galleries while listening to retro and punk French music spun by – DJ Wild in the Streets.” Oh that sounded like a plan.
And it was very nice. I was tired by then and it was very relaxing to look at the Impressionist paintings while the DJ spun her disks. It wasn’t too loud and there weren’t too many people and I liked it a lot.
At midnight I hoofed it back to the train station at Pearl before it turned into a pumpkin. A couple was having an amazingly loud an angry argument – I heard her yell, “His name is Maurice… OK! OK!.” and the response, “I don’t give a fuck what his name is!” I moved on down the platform and considered calling 911 before they came to blows. There were no police at the station, even though there was a deadly shooting there only a couple days ago. Before I did anything, my train pulled up and off I went.
I almost nodded off on the ride home – but at one point a couple of folks standing at the front showed each other their Museum of Art purple wrist entrance things, and I, and the rest of the train car, raised our arms and showed them ours.
Fashion World Of Jean Paul Gaultier At DMA
I always think of this clip by John Hughes as the quintessential Art Museum experience. Late Night at the DMA is not like that.