Something Special, Something Sacred
The Goss-Michael Foundation – Dallas, United States of America
In his novel, Howards End, E.M. Forster’s unforgettable character, Margaret Schlegel, pronounces one of the most familiar quotations about creativity in the English language: “Only connect,” she says. Schlegel is speaking about literature, about “prose and passion”, but her dictum spans forms and genres. Connection and communication cannot be divorced from the creation of art, but they can also be important aspects of the act of collecting art. The Goss-Michael Foundation can certainly be said to explore the ways in which cultures communicate with each other, particularly by highlighting the subtleties that make even familiar cultural lineages distinct and unique. The Foundation houses one of the largest collections of contemporary British art held by an American art space. Complied since 2007 by the American art dealer Kenny Goss and the late pop music legend, George Michael, the partnership behind the Goss-Michael grew out of a romantic connection between the two men. Its mission has endured and its profile has grown, even in the year since Michael’s untimely and tragic death. Based in Dallas, Texas, Goss’ home state, the Foundation has brought the works of superstars of British art, including by globally famous names like Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst to an American audience. An exhibition space housing the often challenging works of contemporary British artists in the heart of the famously conservative state of Texas might seem an incongruous match, but while the Anglo-Irish Nobel laureate, George Bernard Shaw, may have famously quipped that Brits and Americans were “divided by a common language”, art has the ability to bridge divisions and provoke dialogue, and the Goss-Michael Foundation increasingly has focused on establishing a dynamic feedback between its works, its space and the community it serves.
The Foundation’s collection, housed in a spacious, rectilinear site on Wycliff Avenue near the area of Dallas styled as the “Design District”, consists of works by more than 100 contemporary British artists. In addition to Emin and Hirst, other notable figures from the YBA generation can also be found among the Goss-Michael’s holdings, including pieces by Sarah Lucas, Sam Taylor-Wood, Rebecca Warren, Marc Quinn, Gary Hume, and Michael Craig-Martin. The collection also includes works that directly connect the fields of music and visual art, for example, pieces by Linder, one of the greatest of all contemporary British artists, whose name originally came to prominence as a member of the post-punk group, Ludus, and who has continued a visual practice that spans genres and media. Younger artists as well feature in the Goss-Micheal, not least among them the often-fascinating British painter, Nigel Cook, and the Finnish multi-disciplinary artist, Jaakko Pallasvuo. The trans-Atlantic dialogue does not run only in one direction, however. Recently, the Goss-Michael has worked to bring local artists more directly into the orbit of the space with a residency program and exhibitions which explore connections between local artists and the collection’s British core. Michelle Rawlings and Marjorie Schwarz are younger Texas-based artists who have shown works at the Goss-Micheal, and the gallery partnered with the Dallas Biennial to host part of the DB14 festival to further reach out and connect the collection with the world.
The Foundation has also furthered a number of worthwhile causes, particularly HIV awareness and prevention and provides a space for the consideration of identity and how art can contribute to liberatory movements. The most recent exhibition, including works by Linder, Rachel Kneebone, Emin, Lucas, Rachel Howard, and Rachel Warren - among others - centers on the depiction of the female body in art in the wake of the #MeToo campaign against sexual oppression and violence. With its emphasis on outreach and community engagement, The Goss-Michael Foundation demonstrates that for socially concerned collectors, collecting is more than just a matter of aesthetics.
William Kherbek is the author of the novel "Ecology of Secrets" (2013, Arcadia Missa) and "UltraLife" (2016, Arcadia Missa). His art journalism has appeared in a number of publications in the UK, US, Germany, Switzerland and Romania.
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