Gene convened an advisory committee that included Howard Rachofsky and hired San Francisco–based art consultant Mary Zlot. Fourteen site-specific works were commissioned from such artists as Olafur Eliasson and Matthew Ritchie. The large public pieces are prominently installed—a 126-foot painting by Terry Haggerty hangs above a concession stand, and a Franz Ackermann mural explodes with color in a stairwell—while smaller works by Doug Aitken, Eva Rothschild and others hang in the lobby and VIP areas. Jerry points out that Cowboys home games get bigger television ratings than Dancing With the Stars and that the Dallas-hosted 2011 Super Bowl will be seen by more than a billion people, which amounts to massive exposure for highbrow culture. “If between plays, Al Michaels and John Madden are talking about the art and architecture here, well, that’s something you don’t get from a normal museum,” Jerry says.
As innovative as the stadium project is, it also has a clear precedent in Dallas. In the early Sixties, real-estate developer Ray Nasher built one of the country’s first enclosed shopping malls, NorthPark Center, in cotton fields north of town, and installed pieces from his private sculpture collection to add a bit of high-toned polish. “At the time people thought he had literally lost his mind,” says Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher Sculpture Center. The success of the Nasher, which is widely recognized as one of the country’s premier sculpture gardens, was something of a breakthrough for the city’s psyche. For years Dallas engaged in sibling rivalries with Houston, which has strong cultural roots thanks in part to the de Menil family, and with nearby Fort Worth, which is practically run by the deep-pocketed and socially preeminent—some might say snooty—Bass family. “When the Nasher opened, the art world flocked to Dallas to see it,” recalls Deedie Rose. “It was such an exquisite building and collection. People came and said, ‘This isn’t the Dallas of the assassination.’”
Now, with the new performing arts center and Cowboys Stadium, locals speak of Dallas as the “third coast,” a top-drawer all-American city fast on the heels of New York and L.A.—and a legitimate equal of international business centers, too. “Our competition is Shanghai and Frankfurt,” says Mayor Tom Leppert, standing in front of Pei’s brutalist City Hall. “That’s the mind-set we need to have. And that’s part of what’s important about the performing arts center. It puts us on a world stage.”
Back in the leafy enclave of Preston Hollow, Howard and Cindy Rachofsky sit down for a glass of wine in their dazzling Richard Meier home, which looks like an all-white spaceship landed among the McMansions. The house had been designed as Howard’s bachelor pad—there’s only one bedroom but a spacious gym—and was under construction when he met Cindy in 1993. After the couple married a few years later, they moved into a slightly more livable house nearby, which included rooms for Cindy’s two children. Nonetheless, the Rachofskys are often at the Meier showplace—its official name in the architect’s oeuvre is the Rachofsky House—where they host events such as a recent brunch to celebrate the Cowboys Stadium arts program, a fascinating cultural exchange where the straggly, nicotine-stained artist Lawrence Weiner chatted with Gene Jones in the shadow of her gravity-defying bouffant.