The Estate of Sonny Burt and Robert Butler
I will never forget the first time I visited the home of Sonny Burt and Bob Butler when I was twenty-one years old. Even though I had grown up in Dallas, I had never experienced or seen a home anything like theirs. As a recent college graduate and in my first week of working at a gallery in 1990, I walked through their doors completely unprepared for what was on the other side.
Sonny and Bob had built a beautiful home in Preston Hollow that they created from their art collection. Bob was the architect, and Sonny was the designer. They were partners for forty-five years, and their home was extraordinary. To put it simply, their home was "over the top", and they would not have had it any other way.
A first glimpse of the home's interior was stunning and glorious. There was color, texture, humor, and energy. Around one corner there were works by Christo, Jenny Holzer, Luis Jimenez, Melissa Miller, and Peter Saul. Installed down the majestic gallery hallway were works by David Bates, Linda Ridgway, David Szafranski, and the Art Guys. Every direction, there were outstanding examples by great artists that have exhibited in this city. Their collection radiated with personality, engagement, and fun. Their home was a work of art in itself, and the creators of its design were Sonny and Bob.
Sonny and Bob were part of the fabric of the Dallas art community for decades, and they were truly beloved by those that knew them. They represented the "old fashioned" form of collecting art without fairs, the internet, or consultants. They went to every museum opening and visited every alternative space. They experienced art through looking, laughing, and questioning. They came to each experience with an open mind, genuine curiosity, and a sense of humor. They formed friendships and relationships with artists from all over the world that lasted a lifetime.
From the first artwork collected in 1956 by Alexander Calder for $75.00 to their spectacular Christo, Sonny and Bob bought artwork with unabandoned enthusiasm. They supported artists by purchasing not only their masterpieces, but also their tiniest of efforts. They collected certain artists in depth, purchasing works from their graduate school days to their mid-career years and beyond. They collected what they loved by artists they admired, and they sought out artwork that brought them pleasure. In the end, they amassed one of the most impactful collections that the Dallas art community has known.
Sonny and Bob demonstrated to us all how collectors could support artists and an art community through enthusiasm, engagement, and financial commitment. From a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, an art purchase could be just the encouragement an artist might need to continue on their path. Not to mention, Sonny and Bob had great fun as collectors and arts supporters. They generously shared with everyone their love of art and their passion for collecting.
On the eve of my twenty-fifth year as an art dealer, I am humbled and honored to be representing their collection, as it is dispersed over the coming years with all funds from the estate designated as a gift to Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts. Thank you, Sonny and Bob, for such a truly amazing experience.