Museum Spotlight: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Tracing its origins to 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is one of the largest cultural institutions in the country. The main campus, located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the Caroline Wiess Law Building, the Glassell School of Art, and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden. The Beck and Law buildings are connected underground by the Wilson Tunnel, which features James Turrell’s iconic installation The Light Inside. Additional resources include a repertory cinema, two significant libraries, public archives, and a newly redesigned MFA Shop and MFA Café. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present collections of American and European decorative arts. The encyclopedic collections of the Museum are especially strong in Pre-Columbian and African gold; Renaissance and Baroque painting and sculpture; 19th-and 20th-century art; photography; and Latin American art. The Museum is also home to the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art.

Director Gary Tinterow Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is led by Gary Tinterow, who became the seventh director of the MFAH in 2012, following 30 years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as an internationally recognized curator of 19th-century, modern, and contemporary art. Since arriving at the MFAH, Tinterow, who was raised in Houston, has strengthened and refined fundamental aspects of the Museum’s mission and program. In addition to making critical staff appointments, expanding the Museum’s international initiatives, and enhancing the Museum’s role in the greater Houston community, Tinterow has defined the vision for the Museum’s campus redevelopment project.

MFAH, Caroline Wiess Law Building, Exterior. Photo: Robb Williamson Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Between 2015 and 2019, the campus of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will be transformed with a new master plan. The Fayez S. Sarofim Campus will include a new home for the Glassell School and the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building for 20th- and 21st-century modern and contemporary art, both designed by Steven Holl Architects; the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, designed by Lake|Flato Architects; and a unified landscape plan by Deborah Nevins & Associates. The new structures will link to the existing gallery buildings by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Rafael Moneo, as well as the sculpture garden by Isamu Noguchi, knitting together a century’s worth of signature architectural designs and becoming a part of the 75-year legacy of inspired commissions that spans from 1924–and the construction of the original Museum building designed by William Ward Watkin in the Neoclassical style—to the year 2000, when the Museum completed the Moneo-designed Audrey Jones Beck Building. By 2019, the Museum’s 14 acres will be transformed into a pedestrian-friendly cultural zone, complete with an array of public plazas, reflecting pools, and gardens, as well as improved sidewalks, street lighting, and way-finding.

MFAH, Audrey Jones Beck Building, Jamail Atrium. Photo: Aker/Zvonkovic Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

MFAH, Audrey Jones Beck Building, Exterior. Photo: Robb Williamson Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston