Writer: JENNIFER BABISAK / Courtesy Photos / Jan.-Feb 2017
When Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided that the team needed a new home, he had no ordinary stadium in mind. His vision became AT&T Stadium, an engineering wonder that opened in 2009.
The stadium stands out for more than its massive scale. It contains a world-class art collection in fulfillment of the Jones family’s desire to bring the work of renowned contemporary artists to the public.
COWBOYS OWNER JERRY JONES GIVES TOUR OF STADIUM IN THIS VIDEO BY USA TODAY
The Dallas Cowboys Art Collection contains 16 commissioned site-specific pieces and 43 other works of art. Artists with works in the collection come from all over the world and also have pieces in prestigious national and international museums.
Intrigued by the juxtaposition of art and sports, I decided to take part in one of the twice weekly guided tours of the hulking stadium in Arlington, Texas. My children are big Cowboys fans, so I bring them along.
We encounter the first piece of art, Anish Kapoor’s “Sky Mirror,” in the East Plaza located outside the front entrance. The 15-ton, stainless steel sculpture reflects the sky above and ground beneath. It stretches 35 feet in diameter and functions as a giant reflecting glass.
The scale seems appropriate alongside the $1.2 billion AT&T Stadium, which ranks as the world’s 39th largest domed structure.
Inside, we meet Phil Whitfield, the stadium’s art ambassador. Whitfield, a former high school and college football player, previously was head of security at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys’ previous home field.
Near Entry A, we see Ellsworth Kelly’s “White Form,” a 6-foot tall smooth white structure that resembles a letter C. Its simplicity contrasts with the hundreds of twinkling LED lights of a nearby installation. Whitfield tells us that Kelly was the oldest artist to contribute to the collection at the stadium. The American sculptor recently died at age 92.
As Whitfield leads us through the VIP areas, concession stands and general-seating areas, we take in a continuous procession of art.
One of my favorite pieces is “Star,” a neon light-box that spells the word star, by Doug Aitken, a Los Angeles artist. The light box shows an overhead view of city lights, enhanced to resemble a star-filled night sky. The play between the art’s word and form invites visitors to ponder its many possible meanings.
Our visit takes place on a rainy day, so we particularly appreciate the lively colors of Franz Ackermann’s murals “Coming Home” and “(Meet Me) At the Waterfall.” The large-scale murals pulse with enthusiasm and glee. The abstract works represent Ackermann’s feelings about traveling from his native Germany to the Dallas area and are inspired by things he saw in Texas.
In one of the underground corridors, we come across a series of oversized photographs that depict moments from Cowboys’ history. Some show iconic moments of glory while others are glimpses into mundane moments that make up each football season.
Of course my kids’ favorite moments have nothing to do with art. They are starstruck as they step into the team’s locker room and see the lockers of their favorite players.
They really relish walking through a tunnel and onto the playing field. All of us can’t help but notice the enormous video screen — one of the largest JumboTrons in the world is hard to miss — and agree that it is even more impressive in person than on television.
Whitfield encourages the kids to have fun on the field. They run mock football plays, do cartwheels and spin around in the end zone, thoroughly enjoying the vast space.
They are reluctant to leave but are excited at the opportunity to browse in the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop before we go. The shop is open seven days a week and has ample blue and white attire.
That’s good, because we need to boost our Cowboys’ wardrobe. Thanks to the stadium tour, we’re more devoted fans than ever.
Jennifer Babisak is a freelance writer based in the Dallas area.