Arts / Museums

Artfully Pivoting — CAMH’s Celebrated Houston Art Night is Making a Comeback

Outdoor and Indoor Fun, Stunning Auction Works, Beckon

BY // 06.03.21

You can’t slow down an iconic museum — especially one devoted to a dialogue about the art of our time. When COVID-19 gripped the world and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston shuttered for 11 months (between March 2020 and February 2021) its signature ladies-only fêtes, Another Great Night, boldly went on mid-pandemic last fall. The benefit shifted to private, intimate dinners staged in collectors’ homes. 

No doubt, the success of Another Great Night paved the way for this month’s CAMH fundraiser — the museum’s traditional gala — which like AGN, is artfully pivoting. The gala has devised a twist via a new, al fresco component. 


IMG_0269 (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Lucia Benton, Marita Fairbanks, chair Jessica Phifer, host Sissy Kempner, Susie Criner, Page Kempner, Cece Fowler at Another Great Night for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, November 2020 (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton) 

The AGN evening drew an A list — as in Art — of longtime, staunch CAMH supporters as well as some new friends, including influential collectors, gallerists, artists and patron types. Chaired by Jessica Phifer, it featured as host top collector Leigh Smith, who gave a virtual tour of the vaunted collection she shares with her husband Reggie Smith. Smith’s tour focused upon women artists in the Smith Collection, fitting considering the event marked Another Great Night’s 30 year anniversary as Houston’s preeminent ladies-only charitable benefit.

“Leigh and Reggie’s collection is beguiling,” Phifer tells PaperCity. “It’s graphically strong, nearly everything has a powerful visual presence, and all feels pretty joyful on the surface. But a theme emerges of provocation and questioning and tinkering with identities, and this was so impressively consistent throughout the collection, irrespective of the media employed or the profile of the artist.” 

IMG_0340 (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Host Leigh Smith, Martha Finger at Another Great Night 2020 benefiting Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)

Now that CAMH has reopened, it is back to socially distanced — and masked — art business. And the museum is undertaking its first gala in two years, following upon the success of the femmes-only fundraiser staged last fall.

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The 2021 CAMH Gala and Art Auction sagely moved its date from mid-April to pre-summer and is set for this Friday, June 4 (7:30 pm start time) at its elegant steel parallelogram of a museum at 5216 Montrose Boulevard. 

No surprise then that the philanthropic Leigh and Reggie Smith have stepped up as among the night’s major underwriters. And PaperCity returns as the longstanding media sponsor. (Tickets still remain and can be ordered here.) 

This art-centric evening reimagines the museum’s signature gala via a fluid indoor/outdoor component, elevated grab-and-go fare, cocktails and performances.

One element that remains unchanged — a curated selection of esteemed contemporary artwork up for acquisitions via live and silent auctions. 

Scroll through the slideshow above and below for some of our picks for top lots. Featured artists encompass the of-our-moment filmmaker (CAMH- and MoMA-exhibited) Garrett Bradley; Houston’s own rising photo star Karen Navarro; New York-based, Chinati-exhibited Joanne Greenbaum; and Project Row Houses co-founder and UH professor Floyd Newsum

See all CAMH auction artworks and register to bid here

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