Society / Featured Parties

Celebrating a Masterpiece in a $1.7 Million Houston Night — Long-Delayed MFAH Gala is All About The Kinder

The City's Most Stunning New Building Becomes a Party Scene

BY // 05.25.21

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Grand Gala Ball chairs Phoebe and Bobby Tudor had long been wading in the planning of this evening that would inaugurate the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building as an added venue for the all-important black-tie fundraiser. The gala had originally been scheduled for last October but pandemic precautions intervened. The same for a new selected date in January. Finally, May 22, 2021 proved to be the charm.

And charmed it was with proceeds of $1.7 million raised and 300 well-heeled guests stepping out sans masks in a celebratory frame of mind.

The three-level atrium of the 237,000 square foot building served as a grand platform for the evening during which guests had free rein to explore the museum‘s collection of contemporary and modern art. However, most remained in the atrium foyer mingling with familiar faces they had not seen in more than a year.

“This is a no brainer,” Phoebe Tudor quipped, “because it’s a beautiful building and people are so happy to be out.”

Such is the stunning architecture of the Kinder that the Tudors opted for minimal decor, although the 5,000 fuchsia peonies supplemented by bougainvillea, garden roses and orchids in play, could hardly be viewed as minimalist. Florals in the hands of The Events Company were all that was required in the wide open space where overhead an Alexander Calder mobile was suspended and from where guests could catch glimpses of Frank Stella’s colorful Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation III) on the second level.

“It’s really about the building,” Phoebe Tudor explained of the singular decorative theme. “We’re just here to appreciate the architecture.”

Grand Gala Ball_Dancing Atmosphere; Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Dancing on the lower level of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Nancy and Rich Kinder building closed out the Grand Gala Ball. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)

The art and architecture were surely in play when guests moved post-dinner to the lower level where African artist El Anatsui’s massive Visitation wrapped across walls. Sculpted from found aluminum and copper, the work glimmered in the party lighting while Carlos Cruz-Diez’s “Cromosaturacion,” a neon tunnel, provided its own light show and Instagram moments.

When asked earlier about the typical Grand Gala Ball held each October, Amy Purvis, MFAH chief development officer, allowed that the ball provides “critical funding” for the museum’s operating budget. Finances were hit hard during the pandemic she noted, with the significant loss of revenue from ticket sales, merchandise sales and other earned revenue.  So, yes, there will be a Grand Gala Ball in the fall but it will probably be scheduled for November to grant more air time between the two fundraisers.

Following his praise of Purvis’ “extraordinary grace and sensitivity” and Mayor Sylvester Turner as “a loyal friend and wonderful partner” to the MFAH, museum director Gary Tinterow delivered verbal kisses to the ball chairs.

“For more than three years, we have been planning tonight’s event, and we are so very grateful to Phoebe and Bobby Tudor for loyally remaining by our side and ultimately delivering an unforgettable night of celebration, friendship, joy, and beauty,” he said. “Those three words, friendship, joy and beauty, are some of the key characteristics that come to mind when anyone speaks of Phoebe Tudor, and she has worked tirelessly to create an event that reflects her values and personal elegance.”

Contributing to, what was by all accounts a splendid evening, were City Kitchen, which provided the gourmet dinner; the gentle sounds of DivisiAmp during cocktails; and the rocking tunes of DJ Soulcirque in the downstairs club scene.

PC Seen: Nancy and Rich Kinder, Sara and Bill Morgan, Macey and Harry Reasoner, Franci Neely, Martha and Sean Wade, Ann and Karl Stern, Sara Dodd and Will Denton, Judy and Charles Tate, Lynn Wyatt, Susanne and Bill Pritchard, Sarah and Joel Montgomery, Beth Robertson and Steve Pearce, Elise and Russell Joseph, Linda and Dr. Walter McReynolds, Ann and John Bookout and Liz and Tom Glanville.

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