The Art of the Deal: Stunning River Oaks High-Rise Adds a Surprise, Pricey Art PerkBY Catherine D. Anspon // 01.06.17
A rendering of the view from the priciest (and most breathtaking) penthouse in Houston. The River Oaks will also boast a museum-caliber art collection, currently in the acquisition phase.
When the first residents of The River Oaks move in beginning this October, they will be greeted by tony design and finishes, as well as — significant contemporary art.
The River Oaks, 3433 Westheimer Road, one of Houston's timeless Mies-inspired, 60s-era high-rises, is reborn as a luxury condominium updated by architect EDI International with interiors architecture by Rottet Studio.
Arel Capital's Richard Leibovitch and Rottet Studio's Lauren Rottet at the opening for the model of The River Oaks. (Photo Jenny Antill Clifton)
Art Basel Miami Beach 2016 where Leibovitch — assisted by interior architect Lauren Rottet and art advisor Lea Weingarten — shopped for The River Oaks.
Stanley Whitney's "Untitled," 2016, a 46 x 60 inch monotype in watercolor, was acquired from Two Palms, at Art Basel Miami Beach. The dynamic work on paper, influenced by jazz chords, will hang in the Library of The River Oaks.
Stanley Whitney in his Ridgewood, Queens studio, 2016. (Courtesy Wallpaper*)
Tools of the trade in Stanley Whitney's studio, Manhattan, 2015. (Courtesy bombmagazine.org, photo Richard Goldstein)
Liliana Porter's five-part photographic suite, "The Line," 2011, acquired from Paris-based Toluca Editions, at the Untitled fair, is another coup for The River Oaks' collection. (Courtesy Toluca Editions, Paris)
Argentine artist Liliana Porter is a legend in the realm of Latin American art and contemporary photography. (Courtesy arureazure.com)
Liliana Porter's nuanced photographic series, "The Line," 2011, is based on images of her hand photographed in the 1970s. (Courtesy Toluca Editions, Paris)
High design will also form a counterpoint to the building's burgeoning art collection. For example, each unit's kitchen finishes encompass marble hand-selected from Carrara, Italy, paired with Gaggenau appliances and Poggenpohl cabinets.
The penthouse at The River Oaks is Houston's largest and priciest condominium unit, 13,000-square feet, offered at $13 million. The building sets it sights on appealing to art and design connoisseurs.
Poolside at The River Oaks. Note the greenscape designed by landscape architect McDugald-Steele features a space for sculpture.
The lobby of The River Oaks beckons buyers with its melding of design and important art. Owner/developer Arel Capital is making a commitment to form a contemporary collection.
One eagerly anticipated sky-rise has given us an insider peek at an amenity that matches its design appeal, one which is every bit the equal of its Italian marble hand-selected from Carrara, Gaggenau appliances, and Poggenpohl cabinetry.
The River Oaks high-rise has made its first art acquisitions, and not only are they museum enviable — but the new artworks were obtained at two of the world’s priciest, and important, art fairs. Cue Art Basel Miami Beach and the Untitled fair, both held the first weekend in December in the tropical playground of Miami, and the place where the very top echelon of collectors from around the global flock to rub shoulders and engage in premier art shopping.
First a little background on The River Oaks, 3433 Westheimer Road. On a timeline for October through December 2017 move ins (and already more than 60 percent sold), the modernist masterpiece circa 1963-1965, was designed by noted 20th-century Houston architect Cameron Fairchild (1902-1985). Fairchild’s half-century portfolio ranges from one of the first homes built on River Oaks Boulevard to the five-house enclave River Oaks Courts along Stanmore Drive, as well as the Jesse H. Jones Library at the Texas Medical Center, plus substantial homes and public buildings throughout the state, from Galveston to Georgetown, Texas.
Flash forward to today. What was once a ritzy, custom-designed apartment building for modern Houston will be reborn as one of the premier addresses among the city’s new fleet of high-rises redefining the skyline. Drawing gasps for its penthouses, which top out at $13 million for a jaw-dropping 13,000 square-foot unit on the 18th floor, the building is being updated for the new century with luxurious appointments that pay homage to its Mies-inspired bones. Developer Arel Capital has tapped a veritable dream team — architect EDI International, interiors architect Rottet Studio, and landscape architect McDugald-Steele, rounded out by construction manager GT Leach and sales/marketing gurus Sudhoff Companies.
Now add a bold plan for an art collection for The River Oaks’ common areas, and building dwellers and guests will be in for an elevated aesthetic in keeping with Houston’s place as a substantial U.S. art capital and market. Arel Capital managing partner Richard Leibovitch earns kudos for stepping outside the realm of decorative art to truly curate a visual experience. Assisting Leibovitch — himself a collector of contemporary talents from Jeff Koons to Damien Hirst, and Pop icon Tom Wesselmann — are Lauren Rottet, founding principal and president of Rottet Studio, who is known for her sophisticated eye and embrace of avant-garde painting and sculpture, and Houston-based art consultant Lea Weingarten.
And who are the first artists to be acquired by The River Oaks?
Back from Miami, Leibovitch, advised by Weingarten and Rottet, has selected two senior masters, one American born, the other from Argentina. They are respectively Stanley Whitney and Liliana Porter, both talents in their seventies who explore painting and drawing (Whitney) and conceptual photography (Porter) to forge original works that possess nuance, beauty, understatement, and allude subtly to issues of identity. Reportedly, the Whitney monotype and the Porter photographs each were five-figure purchases.
Leibovitch notes, “The goal is for the art to complement the elegance of the building.” And the Art Basel Miami collecting jaunt is just the beginning. “We are actively looking,” the developer says, “going to art fairs, galleries, and art studios.”
Stay tuned. Rumor has it Houston dealers are also on the shopping list.
Weingarten adds, “People can sense immediately when the finest building and design selections are made — and when art is an afterthought …
“Many of The River Oaks’ [future] residents are art collectors in their own right, savvy when it comes to artwork selections. It is important that the pieces going into the common areas are well-chosen.”