Ray Nasher was the king of art and commerce in Dallas

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

A few years after graduating from Duke University in 1943, Nasher met his wife, Patsy Rabinowitz, a native of Dallas. While studying for a master’s degree in economics at Boston University, he met Patsy, a student at Smith College, and they bonded over a shared interest in art and politics. After meeting in 1948, they married a year later and eventually moved to her 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 Nesher’s career in real estate took off. Their art collection began with small pre-Columbian antiques inspired by their trip to Mexico in the 1950s.

By the 1960s, Raymond and Patsy Nasher’s collection contained significant contemporary sculpture, including their first major work, Jean Arp’s bronze sculpture, Torso with Pimples, which Patsy gave to Ray in 1967 for his birthday day.

Concurrently, Nesher’s real estate career expanded from residential to commercial work in the Dallas area. In 1965, he opened the well-known NorthPark Center, which he developed with sculpture in mind, building spaces for art in design and displaying works by sculptors such as Beverly Pepper and Henry Moore.

Along with his fervent enthusiasm for art, Nasher spent much of his time focusing on business, politics, and civic duties. In 1964, he headed the National Commission for Urban Development. A year later, he became executive director of the White House Conference on International Cooperation and eventually served as the United States delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

During his time off between Washington and Dallas, his wife, Patsy, oversaw contributions to their art collection as he traveled to meet with artists. However, after her tragic death from cancer in 1988, Nesher continued to build the collection on his own, adding distinctive works by Picasso, Matisse and others.

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

While museums in New York, London, San Francisco and Washington vie to acquire 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 that 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 supports the sculpture garden named after him at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Of their world-renowned collection of sculptures and art, Nesher said in a 1997 interview:

“The question of why they turned out to be the masterpieces of the 20sth 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 bring a great sense of love and interest intellectually or aesthetically to our being—to our soul.”

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