Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Trammel Crow, Collector - Like Father, Like Son by Susan C.

During the 2009 Q Meeting in Dallas, Oct 21-25, members will have the opportunity to visit a number of fine art museums, three are conveniently located at the same intersection in downtown Dallas. We will be visiting these museums on, Thursday, Oct 22.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about Raymond Nasher, developer of Northpark Center and his gift to Dallas, the Nasher Sculpture Garden, which contains much of his private art collection.

Today, I will write about Trammel Crow and his Museum of Asian Art, located adjacent to the Nasher and the DMA.
Trammel Crow was the son of a poor bookkeeper, but by 1971, Forbes magazine named him as the largest landlord in the U.S. Locally, he left an indelible mark on the city of Dallas and its' Arts. Crow was one of the first U.S. developers to build in Germany, Hong Kong and the South Pacific. Major projects Crow worked on include the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, the Dallas Market Center and the Peachtree Center in Atlanta. As development projects grew larger, Crow sought financial backing from Dallas businessmen, as well as, those outside the city including David Rockefeller and Winthrop Rockefeller. Eventually, he turned to developments in his hometown, changing the skyline of Dallas forever.

The Crow Collection of Asian Art was founded by Margaret and Trammel Crow and opened in 1998. Crow wished to have a space that was open and inviting, since he thought of anyone entering the museum as his personal guest. The museum is very open and has a set of light filled galleries filled with the arts of China, Japan, India and South East Asia, spanning 3500 B.C to the early 20th Century. Their son Trammel, oversaw the project, which was completed in only 18 months and for a mere 5.5 million dollars! During those 18 months, 7000 objects were inventoried and cataloged. After the process was complete, 569 objects were selected for permanent display within the museum.

Crow, owner of the Anatole Hotel, near downtown Dallas, once proposed the construction of a plaza, Pioneer Plaza, with bronze sculptures of three cowboys on horseback along with 70 six foot high longhorn steers. Some skeptics in the City thought Crow was doing it to stall construction of a new hotel that would compete with his nearby facility. Critics also cited the fact that Dallas was not the "cowtown" that Ft. Worth was. Crow's reply was priceless. "I have about 8 or 10 pieces of Rodin in my buildings here....Under their sort of criticism, we shouldn't have any sculpture from Rodin in Dallas. Rodin never even came to Dallas."

The plaza was constructed and completed in 1995. The longhorns were cast in England and shipped to the site, and yes, for many years construction of a new hotel near the Dallas Convention Center was forestalled. Only this month, a ballot referendum was approved by the voters of Dallas, to finally construct a hotel near the newly renovated and expanded Dallas Convention Center, occurring after the passing of Trammel Crow, in January of this year, at the age of 94.

Harlan Crow, son of Trammel and Margaret, also a developer, is a collector, too. As they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree! Harlan's collection though, is along different lines from his parents.

Harlan Crow is most interested in ephemera, historical documents, historical objects and the like. In his collection are signatures of every signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and signatures from all but two of the Supreme Court Justices. Crow has collected historical documents that include a deed to George Washington's Mt. Vernon Estate, a letter from Columbus announcing his discovery to the Spanish Court and correspondence from all U.S. Presidents.

Items of historical import in his collection belonged to Nicholas II, the Duke of Wellington, Churchill and Napoleon. Objects also include a tankard made by Paul Revere, Hitler's china, a five star helmet belonging to General Eisenhower and a life mask of Abraham Lincoln.

Crow does collect fine art. The works of Copley, Sully, Peale and Stuart are among his paintings. At this point, I will add that one of Stuart's paintings of George Washington, is owned by another Dallas collector and is on display, along with other fine art, in his office complex.

Now, here's the twist to the entire collection of Harlan Crow and one that sets it apart from your average, run of the mill, fabulous and historic collection. Harlan has, over the years, collected nearly 20 statues of leaders and assassins of fallen Communist and Socialist regimes. The statues, some almost 20' in height, are displayed on the grounds of his Highland Park estate.

The statues, according to a July 2, 2003 New York Times article, include: Nicolae & Elena Ceausescu (Romania's former first couple), Feliks Dzhinsky (founder of the Soviet Secret Police), Gavrilo Princip (Serbian assassin who may have helped trigger WWI), Lenin (located during civil war and eventually purchased from the artist, damaged and in pieces), a miniature of Mao and Stalin, a bust of Fidel Castro, Bela Kun (Hungary's first Communist leader), Klement Gottwald (first Communist President of Czechoslovakia), Mussolini and more. As of 2003, Crow was still interested in obtaining a statue of Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot. By this writing, my money says they're now in his collection!

Crow employs a young man, who has a self declared "love of adventure and history,"serving as his agent, handling the search, acquisition and shipment of the statues. According to his agent, the statues were often times carried on flatbed trucks through many countries or cut up and carried in smaller vehicles. Sometimes, he states, that during transport he has been in dangerous situations and he has slept with one eye open, to watch the statue and to be on the lookout for his own safety. One statue he retrieved, was standing in an area of much fighting and it's nose had been lost during the battle. It all sounds very cloak and dagger to me, but very interesting, as the comedian portraying the German soldier would say on Laugh In!

I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy seeing the Crow Collection of Asian Art during your visit and believe it or not, there is no admission fee into the museum! Thank you, Trammel!

My next and final blog, will focus on the Dallas Meeting.
Please check back for Meeting details, tips, restaurant recommendations and other sites, not on the agenda, to see while you are staying in Big D!

1 comment:

  1. Photos: Seal of City of Dallas - Dallas City Hall, interior of Nasher Museum, facade of Crow Museum, Dallas skyline, Pioneer Plaza statues, Crow home.