By  on March 20, 2007

DALLAS — Funeral services were held here Monday for Raymond D. Nasher, the arts philanthropist and developer of NorthPark Center mall, who died Friday. He was 85.

Nasher fell ill on a flight from Paris Thursday and was taken to St. Paul University Hospital, said Elliot Cattarulla, executive director of the Nasher Foundation. He had been attending a meeting at the Musée du Louvre.

Born in Boston to immigrants who nurtured his appreciation for the arts, Nasher made his fortune here in real estate and banking. He and his wife, Patsy, began collecting pre-Columbian sculptures in the Fifties and quickly expanded to a pantheon of 20th-century artists.

When Nasher opened NorthPark in 1965, space for monumental art was part of the mall's design even though some questioned the wisdom of it. The public, however, responded with enthusiasm, and works like Jonathan Borofsky's kinetic "Hammering Men" became hallmarks of the center.

Anchored by Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney, NorthPark Center was erected in pastureland on the northern outskirts of Dallas. But the location was prescient, and today the mall is a short drive from the city's most affluent neighborhoods.

"His vision of NorthPark with its art and architecture was incredible and has sustained itself," said Karen Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus. "He was a gentleman, gracious, and always willing to teach about the business."

Under the stewardship of Nasher's daughter, Nancy, and her husband, David Haemisegger, NorthPark has expanded to one of the five largest malls in the U.S. It has 235 stores, including anchors Neiman's, Barneys New York, Nordstrom, Macy's and Dillard's, and luxury boutiques such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Oscar de la Renta.

Several museums courted Nasher for his prodigious art collection, but he chose to keep it in Dallas to nurture the community where he had prospered.

The Nasher Sculpture Center opened in 2003 to acclaim for its elegant design by Renzo Piano. Its trove includes works by Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Alberto Giacometti, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Willem de Kooning, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg, Auguste Rodin and dozens of other artists. Nasher also endowed the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.Nasher is survived by daughters Andrea, Joanie and Nancy, and three grandchildren. His wife died in 1988.

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