Any year that brings a new art museum to the area is a good year. The last new art museum to open was the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, 10 years ago. So thanks to the Kimbell for making 2013 a very good year. With the addition of the Piano Pavilion to the Kimbell campus, the institution is able to display traveling exhibits without having to dismantle its exceptional permanent collection. That has to reign as the No. 1 art event of the year. www.kimbellart.org.
2. “Nasher XChange,” Nasher Sculpture Center, through Feb. 16. This celebratory experiment to mark the Nasher’s 10th anniversary certainly isn’t the prettiest or most even of exhibitions. It is ragged, sometimes sublime and other times silly, but it is successful because of the risk involved. The Nasher staff gave 10 reputable artists free rein to choose a location in Dallas and construct a sculptural work of art. From buried houses to virtual wishing wells, the works spread across the county. Only one is on the grounds of the Nasher; the others are accessible for free. The results have boosted the reputation of the center for its experimental and altruistic endeavor and of at least one of the participating artists. Houston-based Rick Lowe, who organized monthly pop-up markets in a multinational Dallas neighborhood, was appointed by President Obama to the National Council on the Arts in November. www.nashersculpturecenter.org.
3. “Bernini: Sculpting in Clay,” Kimbell Art Museum. Curator C.D. Dickerson III searched the world for all of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s clay models for his monumental marble sculptures and brought all the ones that could travel to Fort Worth. In the galleries of the Kimbell, he simulated some of the historical locations in Rome and mounted the small 17th-century terra-cotta figures in front of photographs of the finished masterpieces. The small studies, accompanied by exhaustive technical details, told of Bernini’s working methods and his thought processes as he completed his numerous commissions. www.kimbellart.org.
4. “Mexico Inside Out: Themes in Art Since 1990,” Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, through Jan. 5. This highly selective tour of the past two decades of art generated in Mexico was bound to be good. With scads of accomplished artists working in Mexico City, how could it not? Curator Andrea Karnes brought 23 of them and their well-regarded but under-recognized artworks — with themes of border conflicts, uninvestigated murders and volatile immigrant situations — to Texas. The timing seemed highly appropriate. www.themodern.org.
5. “Cindy Sherman,” Dallas Museum of Art. This much-anticipated exhibit did not disappoint. As one of the few American women to emerge from the 1970s with a future in art, Sherman has been blazing trails ever since. Arguably, there is not a more well-known or appreciated artist today. Her brutally honest photographs range from kittenish vixens riddled with insecurities to postmenopausal doyens cloaked in caftans, and she creates her fantasies using only herself as a model. She is aging well, as is her work. This retrospective of one of America’s premier artists was spectacular. www.dma.org.
6. The inclusion of Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror to the Dallas Cowboys Art Collection indicates that Gene and Jerry Jones’ enthusiasm for contemporary art has not abated since AT&T Stadium opened. If anything, it has increased, as this $14 million purchase (the most expensive to date for the Joneses) is a testament to their ongoing commitment to the expanding collection of 56 pieces by national and international art stars. http://stadium.dallascowboys.com.
7. “Color! American Photography Transformed,” Amon Carter Museum of American Art, through Jan. 5. To undertake a definitive survey of color photography is a gargantuan effort. To limit the exhibit to 75 photographs is a travesty, especially when what is missing is as glaring as the delights on display. Carter curator John Rohrbach was hindered by the constraints of available gallery real estate rather than his interest or knowledge of the subject matter, which is richly detailed in the exhibition catalog. www.cartermuseum.org.
8. “Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, Noguchi, and Picasso,” Nasher Sculpture Center, through Jan. 19. In the two decades following WWII, a number of European artists, numbed by the atrocities of war, found an expressive outlet in clay and used the humble medium to channel their horrors and frustrations. Curator Jed Morse reeled in 70 works, fully half of which were from private collections and rarely seen. This made for an impressive exhibition of discovery, as many of these works were very different from the artists’ more well-known painting and sculpting styles. www.nashersculpturecenter.org.
9. “John Hartley: Now and Then,” Artspace111, Fort Worth. This solo show by one of the busiest artists in Fort Worth was worth the wait. It had been too long since Hartley dominated a gallery with his large paintings of old toys. Plastic army men lose any semblance of innocence in Hartley’s skilled hands, and his heroic playthings jerk the viewer from fond reminiscences to cognitive dissonance. www.artspace111.com.
10. “Hotel Texas,” Dallas Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, through Jan. 12. An oddity in the calendar of exhibitions for 2013, “Hotel Texas” is an assemblage of artworks that were gathered for a Fort Worth hotel suite occupied for a single night in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The president was assassinated in Dallas the next day. Traveling from public and private collections, the pieces were reunited for the 50th anniversary of his death in a show mounted at the Dallas Museum of Art and then moved to the Carter museum. Providing a poignant, historical view of the excitement Texans had for the charismatic leader — one that was soon overshadowed, as are all things Kennedy, by the events that soon followed — “Hotel Texas” offers a unique glimpse into that time period from an angle that has not been exploited ad nauseam. www.cartermuseum.org.
YEAR-END CRITICS’ PICKS
Today: Visual arts
Friday: Pop and country albums and concerts
Dec. 26: Classical music, opera and dance
Dec. 27: Restaurants
Dec. 30: Theater
Dec. 31: Onstage entertainment