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Dallas/Fort Worth: In the Art of Texas

By Gary Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 17, 2004; Page P01

The tortilla soup brought me back to the heart of Texas.

Before that, a trek through museums had taken me around the world. Gazing at a colorful, ancient figurine of a horse at the Crow Collection, I was suddenly somewhere in 8th-century China. Next door at the Dallas Museum of Art, a spectacular display of Yoruba masks transported me to an East African village. Finally, the Henry Moore, Alexander Calder and other sculptures in the grandly landscaped garden of the Nasher Sculpture Center made me feel as if I were in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Dallas Museum of Art's arty entry. (Carolyn Brown)

DETAILS Dallas/Fort Worth

GETTING THERE: American Airlines flies from Reagan National to Dallas and is quoting a round-trip fare of $224. AirTran flies for about $185 round trip from BWI.

GETTING AROUND: Although most visitors rent cars, Dallas has an efficient bus and light rail system. The Trinity Railway Express trains between both downtown areas cost $4.50 round trip and take about an hour each way. Info: 214-979-1111, www.dart.org.

WHERE TO STAY: In Dallas, the buzzed-about place is the boutique-style Hotel ZaZa (2332 Leonard St., 800-597-8399, www.hotelzaza.com). The bar/restaurant, Dragonfly, has a lavish decor and a fabulously decked-out clientele. Doubles start at $239 and go way up.

The Melrose (3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 800-635-7673, www.melrosehotels.com), also in Dallas, is a more traditional option. The comfortable guest rooms have wood paneling and the bathrooms are Texas-size. The Library is one of the city's snazziest cocktail bars. Doubles booked on the hotel's Web site start at $149. With a fall special, guests who book two nights at $199 per night get a third night free.

WHERE TO EAT: Abacus (4511 McKinney Ave., Dallas) offers such haute dishes as pan-seared foie gras and duck confit crepes. Dinner, the only meal served, runs about $120 for two, with wine.

Located in Deep Ellum, Dallas's nightlife center, Monica's (2914 Main St.) serves Mexican fare with a twist. Try the chili pumpkin lasagna and pink tacos made with salmon and salsa. Lunch for two, with drinks, is about $30.

The Cafe at the Nasher Sculpture Center (see below), catered by Dallas's renowned Mansion on Turtle Creek, is an interesting, airy spot for tortilla soup and other light fare. Lunch is about $15 a person.


Fair Park, the site of 25 art-deco buildings, is two miles east of downtown Dallas and is open 24 hours a day. Admission is free for pedestrians, except during fairs and other special events.

Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St., 214-922-1200, www.dm-art.org. Admission $10.

Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St., 214-242-5100, www.nashersculpturecenter.org. Admission $10.

Crow Collection of Asian Art, 2010 Flora St., 214-979-6430, www.crowcollection.org. Free.

Modern Art Museum, 3200 Darnell St., 866-824-5566, www.themodern.org. Admission $6.

Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-332-8451, www.kimbellart.org. Admission to the permanent collection is free; rates vary for special exhibits.

Amon Carter Museum, 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-738-1933, www.cartermuseum.org. Admission to the permanent collection is free; rates vary for special exhibits.

INFORMATION: Dallas Visitors Center, 800-232-5527, or Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, 214-571-1301, www.visitdallas.com. Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-433-5747, www.fortworth.com.

-- Gary Lee

Then came a late afternoon lunch in the Nasher's sun-splattered cafeteria: a gigantic bowl of spicy broth, with avocados and crunchy tortillas. Sure, you can get tortilla soup in restaurants everywhere from Boston to Mexico City, but only in one place I know do they dish out a version this tasty.

Yeah, y'all, this was Dallas.

But oh, what a far cry from the backdrop of TV's J.R.-vs.-Sue Ellen tiffs and the center of everything supersized, from stretch limos to surgically enhanced body parts. "If you come looking for big hair or Stetson hats, you're in for a letdown," said Martha Tiller, a public relations specialist and former social secretary to Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. "My Lord, that is so old millennium."

In more recent years, the neighboring cities of Dallas and Fort Worth have turned themselves into a sprawling showcase of first-rate paintings, sculptures and architecture. Both Southwestern urban areas boast art "theme parks" spread over dozens of acres; between the two cities, there are seven museums that aficionados rank among the best in the United States, and at least a dozen other worthy repositories of paintings and sculpture.

Fort Worth grabbed the lead in the transformation of this corner of northeast Texas into a major arts destination two years ago with the opening of its boldly designed Modern Art Museum. This spectacular display of post-1940s works by international artists is the anchor of a trio of art buildings clustered on the edge of the city. Next door is the Kimbell Art Museum, featuring European art up to the early 20th century and works from Asia and other regions. Next to that is the Amon Carter Museum, one of the best places in the country to view the works of Frederic Remington and other artists of the American West.

Not willing to take this cultural comeuppance easily from the dusty cow town 33 miles down the Tom Landry Highway, Dallas a year ago opened the Nasher, an alluring space designed by famed architect Renzo Piano (creator of Paris's Pompidou Centre, among other high-profile arts venues). The building, which stretches the length of a city block, houses one of the world's largest private collections of sculptures. It's the latest addition to a multi-structure downtown Dallas museum scene.

The Dallas Museum of Art, a few steps away, has an impressive array of works by impressionists and other European painters, as well as one of the most extensive collections of African art in the United States. The Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection, the only museum specializing in Asian art and artifacts in the Southwest, is just down the street. Fair Park, the site of Texas's 1936 centennial celebration, has one of the largest concentrations of art deco exposition buildings in the world.

Although they have begun crafting cooperative arts tours, officials from the two cities have a hard time masking the traditional Dallas-Fort Worth rivalry. Historically, Dallas has been considered the faster-paced and more urbane place, a modern commercial and business center. Fort Worth, a 40-minute drive away, thinks of itself as an overgrown family-friendly town with a distinctly western outlook.

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© 2004 The Washington Post Company


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