by Paula Bosse
For many who come to Dallas from all across the state to visit the State Fair of Texas, a trip downtown to see the legendary Neiman Marcus department store is a must-see item on the itinerary. This was perhaps more the case years ago when the store was still owned by members of the Marcus family who were eager boosters of the annual event and placed several ads each year which graciously welcomed State Fair visitors to the city. For many years Neiman’s offered “souvenirs” for the tourists, ranging from relatively inexpensive Texas-centric knick-knacks to very expensive Texas-centric knick-knacks.
The 1948 N-M offerings can be seen below in an ad that boasts “A 14K gold welcome to Dallas and the State Fair!” (Click the ad below to see a larger image — to see an image of the ad copy alone, click here.)
Here are the trinkets which no doubt wowed them back home in the nicer neighborhoods of Houston and Midland. (I’ve included ball-park prices in today’s money– according to the whiz-bangy Inflation Calculator — in parentheses.)
- Texas Seal containing circular knife and file: $55 (about $550 in today’s money)
- Gold belt buckle, made to order: $325 ($3,300)
- Hand-tooled belt: $5 ($50)
- Scarf clip, horse with ruby eyes and ruby studded collar: $500 ($5,100)
- Hand-carved scarf pin, gold steer head with ruby eyes: $500 ($5,100)
- Pocket key chain with Texas charm: $45 ($450)
- Texas chain and Texas seal cuff links: $80 ($800)
For the cheap monogrammed hats, giant sunglasses, and salt water taffy, you’d have to head to Fair Park.
Another attraction at Neiman’s during the 1948 State Fair of Texas was an art exhibit: the first showing in Texas of original works by Pablo Picasso. The exclusive show was specifically scheduled to coincide with the State Fair and was prominently displayed on the 4th Floor of the store, in the Decorative Galleries. Twelve canvases — some never before seen in the United States — were “secured directly from Picasso’s studio at Antibes in Southern France,” via Samuel M. Kootz, Picasso’s rep in the U.S. Think about that for a second: in 1948 Pablo Picasso was the world’s most famous living artist, and there was an exhibit of his recent works — some never before seen in the United States — in a department store. In Texas. That was, as they say, a pretty good “get” for the soon-to-be President of the company, Stanley Marcus.
The Picasso exhibit was an early example of Neiman-Marcus’ dedication to bringing international arts and culture to Dallas — an idea which later manifested itself in the store’s Fortnight celebrations (which also ran to coincide with the State Fair in order to maximize publicity, foot traffic, and sales).
Stanley Marcus was an experienced buyer of art, and his relationship with Mr. Kootz was obviously warm — how else might one explain the inclusion of redrawn Picasso paintings (all of which appeared in the N-M show) in a store advertisement? Pretty ballsy. (Click ad below to see a larger image — the text alone can be seen larger here.)
For those who might be interested, these are the first Picasso paintings ever publicly shown in Texas:
- “Seated Woman” (1929)
- “Sailor” (1943)
- “Still Life with Mirror” (1943)
- “Head” (1944)
- “Still Life with Skull and Pitcher” (1945)
- “Cock and Knife” (1947)
- “Woman” (1947)
- “Still Life with Coffee Pot” (1947)
- “Owl and Arrow” (1947)
- “Concierge’s Daughter with Doll” (1947)
- “Blue Owl” (1947)
- “The Glass” (1947)
Another art-world highlight in Dallas during the 1948 State Fair of Texas was the showing of Salvador Dali’s painting “Spain” at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in Fair Park (from the collection of Edward James, loaned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York). A Dallas Morning News headline — “Fair Interest to Divide Over Picasso and Dali” — seemed to imply that culturally-inclined Dallasites and/or fair-goers would have to choose one over the other in the battle of which famous Spanish artist-celebrity was most worthy of their attention: “Team Pablo” vs. “Team Salvador.” In regard to Dallas and its (somewhat late-blooming) openness to modern art, the first sentence of the article is interesting:
The simultaneous presence in Dallas during the period of the State Fair of Texas of original works by two of the world’s best-known living artists underscores heavily the swift progress toward cultural maturity in local thinking and planning. (Rual Askew, DMN, Oct. 3, 1948)
“Cultural maturity” and planning — both were in evidence in Dallas in the fall of 1948.
Thousands of Texans had their very first in-the-flesh glimpse of a Picasso canvas or a Dali painting in Dallas during the 1948 State Fair of Texas — either at a tony department store that sold $500 gold-and-ruby scarf pin “souvenirs,” or amongst the hot-dog-eating and roller-coaster-riding hoi polloi in Fair Park. That’s a pretty good reach for fine art.
It’s not all about the automobile shows!
Sources & Notes
Ads from October, 1948.
Click pictures to see larger images.
Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.