Arts / Galleries

Beloved Painter and Preservationist Hunt Slonem’s Latest Exhibition Celebrated in Lavish Private Dinner — A Hare Salon Moment

Knowing Where The Bunnies Are

BY // 02.05.24
photography Miroma Photography

At his longtime Texas dealer Laura Rathe Fine Art in River Oaks District, painter and preservationist Hunt Slonem joined 80 Houstonians for a splendid private dinner among his museum-collected works of art. It is all in support of Slonem’s newest exhibition titled “Hare Salon,” which is on view through this Sunday, February 11.

Canvases, installations and framed works from Slonem’s newest exhibition flanked the dining table on all sides. Bunnies, birds, butterflies and flowers, painted in neo-expressionist style and displayed in antique frames, provided the perfect backdrop for the elevated evening. Violinist Maryland Liff wove through the crowd, delighting guests with avant-garde classical music.

Michele Till, Laura Rathe, Sandra Smith-Cooper at Laura Rathe Fine Art Hunt Slonem Dinner Party (Photo by Miroma Photography)
Michele Till, Laura Rathe, Sandra Smith-Cooper at Laura Rathe Fine Art Hunt Slonem Dinner Party (Photo by Miroma Photography)

Greg Davis of Event Elementz catered ta sumptuous seated dinner, comprised of lentil soup, salad and pan-seared lamb chops, with decadent chocolate ganache cake for dessert. As attendees feasted, the charismatic Slonem regaled his audience with details from his newest book, as well as stories from his early career. 

Gallery owner Laura Rathe, seated at Slonem’s right, hosted the extravagant dinner party, extolling the iconic artist’s role as one of America’s foremost preservationists.

The painter’s latest book called The Spirited Homes of Hunt Slonem (Gibbs Smith) highlights grand historic homes that he has meticulously saved and restored. The list includes a seven-story 1880s estate in Great Barrington, Massachusetts; a Second Empire-style Cordts Mansion in Kingston, New York; a 35,000-square-foot Georgian Revival Belle Terre in the Catskills; and Slonem’s own New York City studio.

Hunt Slonem, Laura Rathe at Laura Rathe Fine Art Hunt Slonem Dinner Party (Photo by Miroma Photography)
Hunt Slonem, Laura Rathe at Laura Rathe Fine Art Hunt Slonem Dinner Party (Photo by Miroma Photography)

In conversation with Laura Rathe, Hunt Slonem revealed the story behind his famous lagomorphs, which goes beyond a simple affinity for the animal — the artist was born in the year of the rabbit in the Chinese zodiac. In the early days of his career, he experimented with adding images of animals to paintings of saints. The bunnies in particular grew in popularity with collectors over time, resulting in what has now become Slonem’s most iconic motif. Now, not only are bunnies a staple of his exhibitions, they also appear in many of the homes Slonem has restored, as wallpapers and room decor.

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The talk also touched upon the history behind his antique frames. At the beginning of his career, Slonem was invited to present his artwork in an alumni show at Tulane University, where he received his bachelor’s degree (one of the artist’s many connections to Louisiana). Lacking the money to have his paintings professionally framed, Slonem sourced antique frames from second-hand stores — and a signature look was born.  

“Flora and fauna transcend the banal aspects of everyday life,” Slonem notes in his close remarks. “Nature is divine and unique, and I’m thrilled to be on this planet.”

PC Seen: Selena Mackay, Mandy Plaisance Diaz, Lindsey Love, Gil Bruvel, Julia Blailock, Lisa Santasiero, Michele Till, Sandra Smith-Cooper, Jeannie and Rob Chandler, Brad Lockwood, Erin Ellis, Rajani Alvarado, Paola Neri, Stephanie Smith, Meredith Lamberton, Londyn Worley, Jennifer Burgess Loh and Jack Loh, Maura and Brad Parro, John Reily Thomason, Crystal Romero, Kristin Castaneda, Lisa and Paul Mason, LRFA gallery team Chloe Wright and Eliza Mason with husband Garrett Tollette, Rekha Chalasani, Joanna Kornfeld, Krystal Hammett, Eric Schuler, Abby Tolin, Devon Kolomyjec, Mary Ann and Greg Hebrank, Deb Palacios, and Julie and Michael Donaldson. 

“Hunt Slonem: Hare Salon” is showing at Laura Rathe Fine Art Houston in River Oaks District, 4444 Westheimer Road, through this Sunday, February 11. For more information, go here.

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