When the Kennedys were planning their visit to Dallas in November 1963, lodgings at the Hotel Texas were chosen for security rather than elegance. Having discovered that the President and First Lady would be staying in such a modest suite, a group of eminent local residents took it upon themselves to welcome their illustrious visitors in style, by redecorating their rooms with artworks borrowed from private collections and local museums. Works by Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Henry Moore, Thomas Eakins, and others were installed at Hotel Texas suite 850, which was the last place John F. Kennedy would sleep before he was assassinated. In a new heartfelt publication, these paintings and sculptures are brought together with accompanying essays, archive images of the Kennedys, the original hotel room exhibition, and other moments from their trip to Dallas. Written with care and local insight by art historians and academics, this paean to the Kennedys offers an unusual look at the President’s last days.
"Eminent local residents took it upon themselves to welcome the Kennedys in style, by redecorating their modest rooms at the Hotel Texas with famous artworks"
“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth…” So begins Hotel Texas, with an excerpt from a speech Kennedy gave in early 1963, highlighting his commitment to the arts, and his belief that censorship is un-American. “In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology,” he continues. “Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society – in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.”
Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy is available now from Yale University Press.
Text by Ananda Pellerin
Ananda Pellerin is a London-based writer and regular contributor to anothermag.com.