A staggering amount of contemporary Texas art currently lines the walls of Heritage Auctions in the Design District. And many works were unable to be displayed. They are from the collection of the Belo Corporation, and going up for auction Saturday.
The Belo Corporation amassed the art during its media heyday. Belo owned broadcast and cable news stations, as well as the Dallas Morning News, and had its headquarters in Downtown Dallas. The headquarters was built between 1983 and 1985.
Belo curator Judith Garrett Segura, who spoke at a reception for the auction, said the collection was created for the purpose of filling the building’s walls. “Each piece was chosen for a wall,” Segura said. “With consideration for who would live with it.”
As employees were promoted or otherwise moved around in the building, they would often want to take their art with them. Keeping track of what came to be a mobile collection, added to the tasks of being a caretaker for the art.
Segura, along with Murray Smither, built the collection with few guidelines. No skeletons, no exposed body parts, and nothing bazaar. The budget was also a moving target, consisting largely of “be careful and don’t go crazy.”
The result is impressive with work from a who’s who of Texas artists including James Surls, David Bates, Frank X. Tolbert, Billy Hassell, John Alexander, Carol Swanson-Roberts, Benito Huerta, Judy Youngblood and many many others. Much of it is currently beautifully displayed in the Slocum Street building.
For many in Dallas, the dispersal of the collection is a sad moment. But as company fortunes rise and fall, so do their art collections. And here there are two things that changed in the environment that brought us to this day. The first was the Internet.
Segura recalled that in 1997 the Dallas Morning News was celebrating being the first newspaper in the nation to publish a story online before it appeared in the physical newspaper. This however she said allowed advertisers to go directly to the public and drained the lifeblood out of newspapers and even television.
The second was 9-11. The economic fallout that followed meant floors of the building were emptied and art put in storage. Belo sold to Gannett in 2013, but the art stayed with the foundation.
Today the Belo Foundation focuses the majority of its grant-making on college-level journalism education and the development of urban parks. Segura says proceeds from the auction will be used to fund parks in Dallas.
Rather than have estimates, each work starts with an opening bid. Many works by artists in the collection have not sold previously at auction.