Early in the year, area museums took a hard look at the financial forecast for 2010 and hunkered down. There was no extravagant spending, like the Kimbell Art Museum's purchase of a Michelangelo in 2009. Instead, there was just a lot of hard work that paid off in more visitors and more programs.
Exhibitions were crafted from permanent collections and new programs were created utilizing local talents. The museums and galleries focused on reaching out, trying to find new ways to entice visitors to enter. Finding new ways of doing business was the new goal.
Here, then, are the 10 best moments in the local art community during 2010.
1 Best calendar of exhibitions: Nowhere was the new effort more evident than at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, where the exhibition and special events calendar overflowed with remarkable shows. In January, "Jaume Plensa: Genus and Species" opened at the Nasher, a spectacular show that set the bar for the three that followed: "Rachel Whiteread Drawings," "Revelation: The Art of James Magee" and the recently opened "Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy."
The four enormously varied shows were accompanied by a new program called "Sightings" for young up-and-comer sculptors. Adam Silverman and Nader Tehrani used a fountain area in the garden for their installation. Alyson Shotz, the second at bat, chose a little-used dining room. There is a new music program called "Soundings" and a lecture series titled "360" that brings artists, curators and critics in to discuss topical events or exhibits. The Nasher team put together a challenging slate of shows, commissioned a visually and verbally rich catalog for the James Magee exhibit and began a number of new endeavors this past year. 2001 Flora St., Dallas. $5-$10. www.nashersculpturecenter.org
2 Best execution of the mission: The gallery as interactive laboratory -- Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, owned by Texas Christian University -- began the year with an exhibit of contemporary sculptural work from Dallas' Rachofsky Collection. Next up was the silver-tongued British artist Liam Gillick, followed by an installation piece from artist/filmmaker Eve Sussman. Then, the gallery closed the fall semester with a show of new geometric abstract paintings. For sheer variety and a chance for students to meet and interact with contemporary artists, the gallery on Berry Street, under director Christina Rees, is doing a bang-up job on less than a shoestring. 2900 W. Berry St., Fort Worth. Free. www.theartgalleries.tcu.edu
3 Best move: The Goss-Michael Foundation in Dallas moved from a pretentious little space in Oak Lawn to a much larger, more accessible and less-intimidating gallery in the Dallas Design District. The foundation exhibits works by museum-worthy British artists, giving gallerygoers an opportunity to see, for free, an impressive assortment of contemporary work. The Goss-Michael Foundation is at 1405 Turtle Creek Blvd., Dallas. Free. www.gossmichaelfoundation.org
4 "Vernon Fisher: K-mart Conceptualism" at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth: Fisher, who's local but has a national reputation, has filled the second floor of the Modern with a seamless retrospective of his work. There are wonderful familiar threads that run through the pieces, cartoons, television buffoons and movie-serial stars, as well as sprinklings of mysteriously inscrutable bits to make one pause. Through Jan. 2. 3200 Darnell St., Fort Worth. $5-$10. www.themodern.org.
5 "African Masks: The Art of Disguise": Dallas Museum of Art curator Roslyn A. Walker puts the ethnic art objects we are used to seeing mounted on Plexi shelves in context, with full-body costumes, to the soundtrack of drumbeats. Accompanying videos show the masks in action, swirling around the center of a village to the delight and wariness of the observers. This very interesting exhibit will be on display through Feb. 13. 1717 N. Harwood St., Dallas. $5-$10. www.dallasmuseumofart.org
6 "Andy Warhol: The Last Decade": The final silk screens, the last films, his paintings with Basquiat and the objects of his final affections, these last works from the master of American pop were put on display at the Modern. Many of the themes that Warhol employed throughout his career were on display, as were works that were quite prescient of the shallow infatuation of pseudo-celebrity culture.
7 "Constructive Spirit: Abstract Art in South and North America, 1920s-50s": A show that did not portend greatness when it was announced turned into the pleasant surprise of the summer. The works were old enough to be passé and not antique enough to have any romantic patina, yet the 80-some-odd pieces looked fresh on the walls of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Some abstractions are aging better than others, with this group among them.
8 The Ben Jones Focus Show: This was one of the small, three-gallery affairs that the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth mounts on a regular basis to exhibit works by young talent. Ben Jones was a guest in the spring, and his combinations of hard-edged geometric paintings overlaid with animated projections were such a dynamic tour de force that the Modern's director's circle bought one for the permanent collection. Although the exhibition was small, it packed a wallop.
9 Tuesdays and Sundays at the Modern: Terri Thornton, curator of education at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, is charged with organizing speakers for the museum. On Tuesday nights during the school year, someone of interest takes the podium and delivers a usually lively talk about their artwork or someone else's. Over the past several years the roster of talent has become quite impressive. The talks are free, and almost without fail stimulating; sometimes they are absolutely inspiring. It's becoming a regular must-attend and it is so popular that an offshoot, Sundays with the Modern, has been created. For these midday events, a local artist leads a tour of the collection or special exhibition. Both programs are on hiatus for the holidays. Sunday tours will return Jan. 9; Tuesday lectures will resume Feb. 8. 3200 Darnell St., Fort Worth. www.themodern.org
10 The Dallas Art Fair: It happened for the second time, in the pits of 2010's economic woes, on a bone-chillin' weekend in February, and yet the dealers are coming back again in 2011 for a third go. This commercial selling moment brings gallerists from both coasts and overseas to court the interests of North Texas collectors and those who someday envision themselves in that role. The people-watching is almost as good as the art-gazing. The weekend-long event is a very worthwhile experience. For 2011, the red circle dates are April 8-10. www.dallasartfair.com.