Houston, TX 77005 United States
|Type||Art Museum, Institute, Library, Sculpture Park|
|Public transit access||Museum District|
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), is an art museum located in the Houston Museum District of Houston, Texas. It is one of the largest art museums in the United States. With the recent completion of an eight year campus redevelopment project, including the opening of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building in 2020, it is the 12th largest art museum in the world based on square feet of gallery space. The permanent collection of the museum spans more than 6,000 years of history with approximately 70,000 works from six continents.
The MFAH's permanent collection totals nearly 70,000 pieces in over 300,000 square feet (28,000 m2) of exhibition space, placing it among the larger art museums in the United States. The museum's collections and programs are housed in nine facilities. The Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus encompasses 14 acres including seven of the facilities, with two additional facilities, Bayou Bend and Rienzi (house museums) at off site locations. The main public collections and exhibitions are in the Law, Beck, and Kinder buildings. The Law and Beck buildings have over 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2) of exhibition space.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is the oldest art museum in Texas. In 1917, the museum site was dedicated by the Houston Public School Art League (later the Houston Art League) with the intention of becoming a public art museum. The first museum building was opened to the public in 1924. The original building, designed by Houston architect William Ward Watkin in the Greek Neoclassical style, is the first art museum built in Texas. Today the MFAH encompasses two buildings, the Caroline Wiess Law and Audrey Jones Beck buildings, that house its primary collections and temporary exhibitions; two decorative arts house museums; The Glassell studio art school; a sculpture garden; a facility for conservation, storage and archives; and an administrative building with the Glassell Junior school of Art.
Prior to the opening of the permanent museum building in 1924, George M. Dickson bequeathed to the collection its first important American and European oil paintings. In the 1930s, Houstonian Annette Finnigan began her donation of antiquities and Texas philanthropist Ima Hogg gave her collection of avant-garde European prints and drawings. Ima Hogg's gift was followed by the subsequent donations of her Southwest Native American and Frederic Remington collections during the 1940s. The same decade witnessed the 1944 bequest of eighty-three Renaissance paintings, sculptures and works on paper from renowned New York collectors Edith and Percy Straus. Over the next two decades, gifts from prominent Houston families and foundations concentrated on European art from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries, contemporary painting and sculpture, and African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian art. Among these are the gifts of Life Trustees Sarah Campbell Blaffer, Dominique de Menil and Alice N. Hanzsen as well as that of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Augmented by museum purchases, the permanent collection numbered 12,000 objects by 1970.
The MFAH collection nearly doubled from 1970 to 1989, fueled by continued donations of art along with the advent of both accession endowment funding and corporate giving. In 1974, John and Audrey Jones Beck placed on long-term loan fifty Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, augmenting the museum's already strong Impressionist collection. This collection would never leave the MFAH, formally entering its holdings in 1998 as a gift of Life Trustee Audrey Jones Beck. The collection is permanently displayed in the building that bears her name. On the heels of the Cullen Foundation's funding of the MFAH's first accessions endowment in 1970, the Brown Foundation, Inc., launched a challenge grant in 1976 that would stay in effect for twenty years raising funds for both accessions and operational costs in landmark amounts and providing incentive for additional community support. Also in 1976, the photography collection was established with Target Stores’ first corporate grant to the museum. Today the museum is the sixth-largest in the country.
In 2001, the MFAH, established the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), the leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art. The ICAA has been a pioneer in collecting, exhibiting and researching the diverse artistic production of Latin American and Latinx communities, including artists from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and artists of Latin American descent living and working in the United States. Through the ICAA, the MFAH brought a long-term transformation in the appreciation and understanding of Latin American and Latinx visual arts in the United States and abroad.<ref="nytimes.com">Hilarie M. Sheets (November 13, 2020), '
With approximately 70,000 works of art, the largest part of the museum's collection lie in the areas of Italian Renaissance painting, French Impressionism, photography, American and European decorative arts, African and pre-Columbian gold, American art, and post-1945 European and American painting and sculpture. Other facets of the collection include African-American art and Texas painting. Emerging collection interests of modern and contemporary Latin American art, including the artwork of all Texas Latino artists, Asian art, and Islamic art continue to strengthen the museum's collection diversity. As a result of its encyclopedic collection, the museum ranks nationally among the top ten art museums in attendance.
Since 2019 Hossein Afshar Collection, one of the world's most distinguished private collections of Persian art, is on loan to MFAH. The museum has organised two exhibitions of this collection.
In 2021 the Monuments Men Foundation announced that it had located a painting from the collection of Max Emden in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). According to the Foundation, the painting by Bernardo Bellotto, called The Marketplace at Pirna, had an inaccurate provenance that concealed the history of the painting. After the MFAH refused to restitute the painting the Emden heirs filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas.
The Museum, which had rejected the Emden heirs’ claims since 2007, disagreed with the characterization of the painting as having been subject to a forced or duress sale due to Nazi persecution. MFAH director Gary Tinterow stated that Emden sold the painting voluntarily and, that after consulting provenance and legal experts, “we concluded that we had good title.” The museum also states that the Bellotto is one of multiple nearly identical versions by the artist, and was bought by Samuel H. Kress in 1952 and later donated to the museum in 1961.
Arts of Oceania, Africa, & the Americas [* = mixed media: ** = painted wood: *** = earthenware]
Arts of Asia and the Islamic World
European and American painting (1400-1899) [all oil on canvas except: ** = tempera & gold leaf on panel; * = oil on panel]
Impressionism, postimpressionism, and early modern art [all oil on canvas unless noted otherwise]
Philippe de Montebello directed the museum from 1969 to 1974. During the 28-year tenure of Peter Marzio between 1982 and 2010, the Museum of Fine Arts’ yearly attendance increased to roughly two million from 300,000; its operating budget climbed to $52 million from $5 million, and its endowment reached $1 billion (before the 2008 recession dropped its value to about $800 million). The museum's permanent collection more than tripled in size, to 63,000 works from 20,000. In 2010, Marzio was the sixth-highest-paid charity chief executive in the country, with compensation in 2008 of $1,054,939. A year after Peter Marzio died in 2010, Gary Tinterow was appointed as the museum's director. Mari Carmen Ramírez is a Puerto Rican Art curator and the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
But the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which ultimately came to possess the third Bellotto, has rejected the Emden heirs’ claims since 2007. Its director, Gary Tinterow, argues that Emden sold the painting voluntarily and, that after conducting provenance research and consulting lawyers, “we concluded that we had good title.”