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Arts / Museums

A Power Shakeup in the Houston Art World

The New Leaders, Wild Art Fair Whispers and Exhibits You Need to Know

BY // 03.05.16

Welcome to Wonderland: Two of our best curators preside over non-collecting art spaces that mount some of the most extraordinary exhibitions in Texas. These power women may be understated, but the artists they champion share unique and often idiosyncratic visions that make Claudia Schmucklis shows at Blaffer Art Museum and Kim Davenport’s site-specific commissions for Rice Gallery the ultimate calling cards.

At Blaffer this month, the multilayered “Mirrors for Princes” by the collective Slavs and Tatars recontextualizes an 11th-century Turkish poem advising royals on power with costumes, furniture and objects that wittily traverse centuries and countries. The Eastern-infused exhibition hopscotches to Houston for the final stop on its five-city world tour (through March 19). Meanwhile, Rice Gallery — the only university museum in the U.S. that exclusively shows and commissions site-specific installation art — offers a wunderkammer of a show.

German artist Thorsten Brinkmann forges a topsy-turvy world to experience (and even crawl through) where vases and lamps become heads and feet and scale unscrambles. Become Alice and jump through the looking glass (through May 15).

Change Is in the Air: New people in high positions, new spaces of import and an infusion of emerging energy define this year. From rumors swirling around both Houston Fine Art Fair and Texas Contemporary Art Fair to six new spaces appearing, it’s thrilling.

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Slavs and Tatars’ “Zulf (blond),” 2014, at Blaffer Art Museum. (Courtesy the artists and Blaffer Art Museum)

On our radar: Art Basel Miami Beach-exhibited Apama Mackey Gallery, preparing to reopen in the Heights; David Shelton Gallery’s expanded space at 4411 Montrose; Pittsburgh arrival Cindy Lisica Gallery (also at 4411); DiverseWorks as the new queen of MATCH; the inventive Capsule Gallery at Isabella Court in Shelton’s former digs, with Sarah Sudhoff’s programming alternating photography and studio jewelry; and the nuanced curatorial prowess of Mel DeWees, over on Colquitt in Gray Contemporary, occupying the former McMurtrey Gallery space. Look to PaperCity in April for a look at these fresh art doors.

There’s also movement in positions of power… Julie Farr, formerly of the Craft Center, steps into an expanded new role as director of the Houston Museum District Association, which encompasses 19 organizations (including Houston Center for Contemporary Craft) that generate a combined annual attendance exceeding all local sports facilities— 6.9 million — and provide an impressive annual economic impact of approximately $372 million … Over at Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office, Debbie McNulty helms the director of cultural affairs position, vacant due to Minnette Boesel’s retirement.

Boesel redefined the job description and was a tireless advocate for Houston’s visual arts community; McNulty, who back in the day was director of Art League Houston, is also deeply connected (husband Dean Ruck, of Ruck/Havel Projects, creates poignant public art out of our discarded past) …

As Houston Center for Photography awaits a new director, Linda Shearer leads the respected photographic nonprofit as interim director; her previous post was director of Project Row Houses. She also gets kudos for acquiring the late great Bert Long Jr.’s home as her residence and keeping it in the art family … For more topics we’re tracking — Dance Salad, Trenton Doyle Hancock’s commission for University of Houston Downtown, Art Blocks and Holocaust Museum Houston’s “Butterfly Project” — check in at our arts channel.

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