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Exhibit showcases artwork that decorated JFK's last hotel room

Written by , published November 21, 2013

Fifty years ago on this date, the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy checked into Suite 850 of the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth. It would be the last night of the president's life; he was assassinated the following day, November 22, 1963, in Dallas.

Two North Texas art museums are memorializing the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination by emphasizing a little-known artistic aspect of the historic moment. Staged at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy brings together 13 of the 16 paintings and sculptures that were assembled to spruce up Suite 850 of the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth.

After a four-month run earlier this year in Dallas, the exhibit moved to Fort Worth in October and will be on display through January 12 at the Amon Carter Museum.

"It was a one-night exhibition for two people, which is quite amazing," says Olivier Meslay of the Dallas Museum of Art, the exhibition curator. "It's a very interesting slice of art for the period. It's very thoughtful-even though (the collectors) picked it very quickly-from Western art like Charles Russell to abstract expressionism. They made a perfect selection of the wide tastes of the time."

Meslay spent more than two years tracking down the artworks, some of which had changed hands since 1963. Artists represented in the exhibition include Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Thomas Eakins, and others.

The story goes that days before the Kennedys' trip to Texas, a local art critic voiced concern about the suitability of the first couple's accommodations. In response, members of the Fort Worth art community and collectors, such as Samuel Benton Cantey III and Ruth Carter Stevenson, scrambled to compile a collection that they hoped would please the Kennedys' tastes.

"In reuniting these works of art and unveiling this story, we hope to inspire some historical reflection about the Kennedys' impact on the arts and the significance of providing them a space complete with such a wide-ranging group of masterworks" Meslay says.

The exhibit also includes contextual information about the Kennedys' trip to Texas.

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