BY MICHAEL GRANBERRY | THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS | –
Craig Hall and I met in Vienna in 1999, when his wife, Kathryn, was serving as the U.S. ambassador to Austria, an appointee of President Bill Clinton. We were sitting in the backyard of the ambassador’s residence, where President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had once held a tense Cold War summit.
My meeting with Hall was much friendlier. We talked about the parties you get to host as U.S. ambassador to Austria, where the couple’s guests have included Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, novelists Toni Morrison and Richard Ford, wine connoisseur Robert Mondavi, fashion designer Geoffrey Beene and former President Jimmy Carter.
I was there to write a profile of Kathryn and Craig, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., who owned a building by his 18th birthday. He overcame a childhood marred by epilepsy to join the city’s ranks of multimillionaires when he moved to Dallas in 1979.
Hall had admired and collected art since he was a teenager. He had woven his passion, successfully, even exquisitely, some would say, into the sprawl of Hall Office Park in Frisco.
Now he seeks the same synergy at Hall Arts in the Dallas Arts District.
He wanted just the right kind of experiential art to adorn the lobby of KPMG Plaza. Washington, D.C.-based consultant Virginia Shore drew his attention to the work of British artist Richard Long.
Hall hired Long to create the massive wall piece for the lobby of the anchor building for Hall Arts, a five-acre complex in the Arts District that will house Jackson Walker, UMB Bank, Hall Financial Group and a new Stephan Pyles restaurant.
Long ranks as one of Britain’s most significant artists. His works appear in the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. In 2009, Tate Britain convened a major exhibition of his, titled “Heaven and Earth.”
Hall found himself grooving on Long’s “wall works” or “mud works,” which the artist creates using just his hands and a mixture of water and white china clay that comes from Cornwall, near Long’s hometown of Bristol.
Long says people ask him all the time if mud works last, to which he replies, “Well, I think of cave paintings — they last.”
He told Hall not long ago that the mud works will last “many, many thousands of years. It will outlast us, is the point.”
In creating the works, Long says, “I know what I’m planning to do but then, obviously, everything is done by chance. And every wall is different, so I never know until I actually put the first handprint on the wall.”
He says the work “is just as much about water and gravity as it is about the clay. The result is a representation of my human energy and the energy of nature.”
Long is calling the piece Dallas Rag, because in his words, “It’s a connection to a piece of music I’ve heard,” a country-Western piece that “had some flat-top guitar” in it. The music’s title? “Dallas Rag.”
“There’s something in this piece that is about music,” he says. “It’s controlled spontaneity.”
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