Commercial art gallery

Ray Nasher was Dallas’ king of art and commerce

Raymond Nasher was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1921. He grew up as the only child of European parents who emigrated to Boston in his early years. He inherited his appreciation for art from his parents, who took him to various museums and galleries every month during his childhood, instilling in him a love of quality art from an early age.

A few years after graduating from Duke University in 1943, Nasher met his wife, Dallas native Patsy Rabinowitz. While studying for his master’s degree in economics at Boston University, he met Patsy, a student at Smith College, and they bonded over a common interest in art and politics. After meeting in 1948, they married a year later and finally moved to his hometown of Dallas, Texas in 1950, where they raised three daughters.

Artists by nature, the couple began collaborating on a collection of various artworks and sculptures as Nasher’s real estate career took off. Their art collection began with small pre-Columbian antiques inspired by their trip to Mexico in 1950.

In the 1960s, the Raymond and Patsy Nasher collection held important works of modern sculpture, including their first major piece, a bronze sculpture by Jean Arp, “Torso With Buds”, which Patsy gave to Ray in 1967 for his anniversary.

Simultaneously, Nasher’s real estate career spanned from residential to commercial work in the Dallas area. In 1965 he opened the famous NorthPark Center, which he developed with sculpture in mind, building spaces for art in design and showcasing works by sculptors like Beverly Pepper and Henry Moore.

Along with an ardent enthusiasm for art, Nasher spent much of his time focusing on business, politics, and civic duty. In 1964, he chaired the National Urban Planning Commission. A year later, he was named executive director of the White House Conference on International Cooperation, and he eventually served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

During his time split between Washington DC and Dallas, his wife Patsy oversaw the contribution to their art collection as she traveled to meet artists. However, after his tragic death from cancer in 1988, Nasher continued to build the collection on his own, adding distinctive works by Picasso, Matisse and others.

By the end of the 1980s, the Nasher collection had gained international recognition, and various exhibitions featured the collection, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., as well as museums across Spain, l Italy and Israel.

While museums in New York, London, San Francisco and Washington all raced to win the works, Nasher chose Dallas as the home of his world-renowned private art collection. Spending $70 million of his own fortune, Nasher built the Nasher Sculpture Center, a 55,000 square foot museum and sculpture garden in downtown Dallas, which opened in 2003.

Nasher extended his generosity beyond Dallas, donating $7.5 million to establish the Nasher Museum of Art at his alma mater, Duke University. He also regularly supported the sculpture garden that bears his name at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Regarding their world-renowned sculpture and art collection, Nasher said in a 1997 interview:

“The question of why they turned out to be the masterpieces of the 20e century is a very good question that is difficult to answer. For this reason, my wife and I decided that the only art we would buy would be things that brought a great sense of love and interest intellectually or aesthetically to our being – to our soul.