How do you build a museum that attracts nearly a hundred thousand people every week? Definitely not an easy feat, but Gene Jones makes it look effortless by embedding an art exhibition in the world-class sports arena, the Dallas Cowboys Art Collection at AT&T Stadium. While art and sports might seem like an unlikely pair — and although many of the people visiting the stadium may not share the same level of enthusiasm for fine arts that museum-goers might — the AT&T Stadium does a masterful job presenting the two in a way that is at once complimentary and striking. We had a chance to ask Gene Jones, Founder of the Dallas Cowboys Art Collection, some questions about the stadium and its vast art collection:
It's fairly uncommon to see a special art collection within a sports facility. Could you tell me about your decision to bring art into the stadium?
Gene Jones (G): When we were building the stadium, we truly wanted this to be more than a place to watch a football game or attend a concert. It’s a fabulous venue for those events, but we wanted to offer other experiences within the building.
When we decided to create the Art Collection we knew we could not do it alone. First, we hired an art advisor who came highly recommended – Mary Zlot, with Zlot Buell Associates in San Francisco. Then we decided to form an Art Council with well-respected, knowledgeable contemporary art collectors and museum professionals in the North Texas Area.
Our Art Council consists of:
• Mary Zlot – Advisor
• Michael Auping, Chief Curator Museum of Modern Art Ft. Worth
• Gavin Delahunty, Sr. Curator Contemporary Art, Dallas Museum of Art
• Melissa Meeks, Director Two x Two for AIDS and Art
• Howard Rachofsky, Collector
• Gayle Stoffel, Collector
• Charles Wylie, Curatorial Advisor
• And myself and my daughter, Charlotte Jones Anderson
There is a lot of thought given to the art that is placed inside the stadium and now we are also placing at The Star, our new headquarters in Frisco. For the stadium commissions it was important for the artist to have experience working with large scale installations. But at the same time, the Council looked for emerging artists as well as established 20th Century artists who have already had considerable international recognition and museum experience.
G: The architecture of the building is contemporary, so our intent was for the art to complement and interact with the architecture of the stadium. We have tried to make selections that are accessible and approachable for all the people who visit here.
What are three key words that represent the focus of the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium’s art collection?
G: Contemporary, unexpected and unprecedented.
G: The reaction has been only positive particularly from those who might not ever step foot in a museum have come to appreciate the art in our stadium – whether attending a football game, a rodeo, or a concert. Every area of our stadium is touched with contemporary art. As you enter the front door of our stadium or any of the main entrances to the stadium, if you are walking the ramps to the upper deck seats, if you are on escalators at the monumental staircases or if you are in any of the private clubs of the stadium, you experience the Art. And, even if you are in the plaza outside you interact with Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor. I would probably say this is one the more popular given the element of reflection….it’s by far the most popular today on social media!
The Dallas Cowboys Art Collection has also welcomed many well respected art dealers, art collectors and artists from all around the world. All of whom are intrigued and also pleasantly surprised after their experience touring the collection at AT&T Stadium.
G: There have been so many great comments, but I believe what’s been most gratifying is the acceptance of the Dallas Cowboys Art Collection in the Art Community – locally, nationally and internationally.
G: Jim Campbell’s Exploded View is located at the front entrance of our stadium by the Pro Shop and the Ticket Office. When you first see the work it looks like hundreds of twinkling lights but as you look closely you can see video of great plays from Dallas Cowboys games.
Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror is a fan favorite. From every angle you see reflection and especially from the back you can see your own reflection – it’s really a fascinating piece.
But we feel the entire Collection leaves visitors talking …..The Collection consists of 60 works from 44 different artists such as Anish Kapoor, Lawrence Weiner, Jenny Holzer, Mel Bochner, Teresita Fernandez and Olafur Eliasson, just to name a few.
G: I would not say any one work has been a great challenge. There are obstacles that we are faced with but so far we’ve been able to successfully work through and resolve.
With Annette Lawrence’s Coin Toss, we had to completely re-engineer the walls at Entry E where her work is located. The tension from the wires was so great we had to reinforce the walls in order to make it all work.
With Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror, we had to get clearance from the FAA given the stadium is situated in the flight path for DFW International Airport, and the reflection from sculpture reflects towards the “sky”.
When you're dealing with heavy visitor traffic, what's the key to successfully maintaining the integrity of the artwork?
G: Many of our works are approachable, but to the surprise of many, all of our visitors even during football games have been very respectful towards the art. We’ve not had any damage to the art.
We have a great staff at the stadium that keeps the spaces clean and tidy all of the time. Everyone that works at the stadium takes great pride in the building, including the art!
G: We are continuing to update the collection on an annual basis. We attend major art fairs, we participate in contemporary art auctions and our Art Council is vital in continuing to make suggestions for new and up and coming artists for our review.
How do you think the art-within-sports-facilities concept will evolve over the next few years? Do you think it will become a more common phenomenon?
G: In truth, art has been a part of stadiums for thousands of years, back to the Greeks and the Romans, although there’s never been a stadium quite like this.
We have seen artists, collectors and even museum professionals from all over the world become amazed by the building. We didn’t know how this would go when we started the project. It is just a place that is so different than where artists are typically asked to work. But every single artist we approached has been excited about the concept and energized once they have gotten on site and seen the building.
G: It has a lot to do with the spaces we have available for art, but primarily contemporary in style. Our Art Council is vital in keeping us current on new young artists, emerging artists and weighing in on various works in consideration.
G: The architecture of the building has given us many diverse opportunities for art locations – over the concession stands, at every VIP Entrance of the stadium, in the monumental staircases and the even the ramps to the upper level bowl seats. We also have incredible spaces within our clubs and corridors throughout the stadium in which we display contemporary art.
And recently we’ve used our platform areas on the main concourse for an art exhibit for the entire fifth grade (52 schools) within the Arlington Independent School District. The students participated on the art tour at the stadium and had an opportunity and the end of the school year to display their very own works and interpretations of their experience with the Dallas Cowboys Art Collection.
- Featured image on the top: Art by Alyson Shotz – Photo Credit: Tom Fox
- Photos courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys