Houston’s Art World Expands

Courtesy Johnston Marklee/Igor Brozyna

What to see amid the city’s growing culture scene.

With Houston’s robust endowments and acres of green space, art appreciation has become a fervent pursuit in the metropolis. “The city has a strong history of collaboration,” says Alison de Lima Greene, a curator of modern and contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH). Together with the Menil Collection and Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts (MCA), the institution is part of an energetic trifecta of art initiatives in the city.

Southwest of downtown and adjacent to the Montrose neighborhood is a dynamic museum district, which includes the Rice Gallery, where Sol LeWitt’s seminal installation Glossy and Flat Black Squares, a work originally created for the space in 1997, is on view until May 14. The gallery will move this fall to the university’s new MCA, a $30 million glass-and-gray-brick-clad complex a mile away. Designed by Los Angeles–based Michael Maltzan Architecture, the MCA was conceived in the hope of fostering a cross-disciplinary approach to art through engagement with the university’s constellation of schools, including engineering, science, music, and architecture. The building features project studios, a 150-seat theater, galleries, flexible teaching spaces, classrooms, and a café. Inaugural exhibitions include works by Thomas Struth, Diana Thater, teamLab, and Olafur Eliasson. The first artist in residence was Beirutborn Palestinian Mona Hatoum, who returns in October to exhibit work at the Menil Collection.

The Menil Drawings Institute—a state-of-the-art facility to store, archive, conserve, and exhibit drawings—will inaugurate its new building on October 7 with “The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns.” A catalogue raisonné accompanies the retrospective, spanning the 86-year-old artist’s prolific output of drawings in graphite, ink, charcoal, watercolor, gouache, and oil stick. Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, also Los Angeles architects, designed the 30,000-square-foot pavilion, which will incorporate landscaping by New York–based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to help mask intense sunlight.

These venues will continue to expand with the transformation of the MFAH’s own 14-acre campus, which will add three new buildings in the next two years: the Glassell School of Art (2018) and the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building (2019), both designed by New York architect Stephen Holl; an art conservation center by Texas natives Lake/Flato Architects is also scheduled to debut in 2019. In the interim, be sure not to miss Aussie Ron Mueck’s sculptures on view at the MFAH (through August 13).