DMA Insight

A Gift of Ancient Art from Mexico

The following excerpt was written in 2003 by Carol Robbins, the former Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Curator of the Arts of Americas and the Pacific, for the publication Dallas Museum of Art, 100 Years.

The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts purchased its first ancient objects from Mexico in 1952 under Director Jerry Bywaters—twenty ceramic figures from the state of Veracruz. Several Maya objects and additional Veracruz figures were acquired in 1964, but focused collecting in this area began somewhat later, during the directorship of Merrill Rueppel. From 1967 through 1972, individual objects steadily entered the collections, selected by Rueppel and curator John Lunsford. In 1972 they learned of an exceptional group of sculptures: sixty objects—carved from stone or modeled from clay—that represented the major cultures of ancient Middle America, from Olmec to Aztec, from 900 BCE to 1521 CE.

Rueppel approached Algur Meadows, aware that ancient American art was about as far from Meadows' area of interest as one could imagine. But Mr. Meadows realized what these objects would do for the Museum's collections. His enthusiasm and determination persuaded Eugene and Margaret McDermott to meet his challenge. The objects entered the collections in 1973, the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene McDermott and The Eugene McDermott Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated. Thirty years later, works of art from this astonishing group still form the heart of the Museum's Middle American collection. Some, like the Olmec mask, have been exhibited and published beyond the Dallas Museum of Art; others have yet to receive the attention they merit. We welcome this opportunity to celebrate a gift that contributed enormously to the Museum and set a precedent for future challenges.

Excerpt from

Carol Robbins, “A Gift of Ancient Art from Mexico,” in Dallas Museum of Art 100 Years, eds. Dorothy Kosinski, et al. (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 2003), 32.