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Museum of Fine Arts Houston Expansion


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Feb. 15, 2005, 6:12AM

BEQUEST TO MFA COULD SET RECORD FOR AN ART MUSEUM

Oil heiress's gift ultimately may be up to $450 million

By SHANNON BUGGS

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, soon could be entered in the annals of philanthropy as the recipient of the largest cash gift to a fine arts museum ever publicly announced.

Caroline Wiess Law, the daughter of one of Humble Oil Co.'s founders, made the museum the prime beneficiary of her estate.

When all of Law's assets are sold and the legal proceedings conclude, possibly by the end of this year, the museum could net between $400 million and $450 million, said director Peter Marzio.

"In recent history, this would be one of the biggest, if not the biggest cash gifts to an art museum," said Mimi Gaudieri, executive director, Association of Art Museum Directors in New York. "This money will help make Houston one of the most important museums in terms of programming and serving the public."

Law's giving would rank as No. 1 in non-art donations to museums on a list compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which tracks charitable donations of $50 million and more.

Less pressure on budget

The MFA already has plans to kick off a capital campaign in the coming months for designing and building a third structure on its campus to house 20th century and contemporary art, Marzio said. This comes after the museum raised $125 million to build the 200,000-square-foot Audrey Jones Beck building, which opened in March 2000.

"If the Law bequest works out the way we want, " Marzio said, "there will not be as much pressure on the operating budget to build the new building as there was on the budget when we built the Beck building."

Because the Law gift is endowed money, it is not meant to be spent. Instead, the cash will be invested by money managers Fayez Sarofim in Houston and Luther King in Fort Worth.

The $165 million the museum has already received from Law's estate has raised the museum's total endowment to $545 million. A second check of $165 million is expected to arrive by the end of March, making the city's wealthiest arts organization even richer.

"It's a magnanimous gift not only to the MFA but to the entire city," said Ed Wulfe, president of the Houston Symphony. "It ensures the long-term viability of one of our major arts organizations and allows it to continue to impact the quality of life of our entire city."

An avid art collector, Law followed her mother's footsteps on the MFA's board of directors. She used oil industry inheritances from her parents and husbands to support the museum's growth.

She was named a life trustee and was thanked by the board for her generosity over the years with the honor of her name being bestowed on the museum's main building designed by architect Mies Van Der Roh.

"She felt that our family has been very lucky and that this city has been very good to us and that it is our privilege and duty to give back to the city and that this gift might inspire others to do the same," said Jim Elkins, Law's nephew and executor of her estate.

Soon after Law died in 2003 on Christmas Eve and her 85th birthday, her estate gave the museum Law's contemporary art collection valued at between $60 million and $85 million. The 55 major works include pieces by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro.

The estate also distributed $25 million checks each to the museum, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

What was not mentioned in the museum's announcement about that gift was that Law named the museum the residual beneficiary of her estate. Anything not specifically given to a person or institution was to go to the museum, including all of the assets of her foundation, which is valued at $18 million and is scheduled to be dissolved by the end of the year.

The endowment also allows the museum to use less of the endowment's income every year to run the fine arts museum and the central administration of an arts organization that also operates the Glassell School of Art and the decorative arts museums at Rienzi and Bayou Bend.

The museum's budget requires a draw of about 5.1 percent of the $544 million endowment total return to generate one-fourth of the the $41 million needed to operate the museum this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

History of efficiency

Before this infusion of cash, the museum earned a reputation as an efficient charity by spending 88 percent of its budget on programs and services and paying only 4 cents to raise $1 in charitable contributions, said Charity Navigator, a Web-based evaluator of the financial habits of nonprofits.

That compares with the average art museum's spending just 68 percent on programs and 13 cents on fund-raising expenses.

But one area in which the MFA appears stagnant is in revenue growth. Over the past three to five years, the average art museum grew by at least 6 percent, deriving primary revenue from individual donations, corporate contributions and and ticket sales. The MFA's revenue in that time frame rose only 1.6 percent.

Chronicle reporters Everett Evans, Purva Patel and Charles Ward contributed to this story.

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I found out about this minutes after a friend had sent me an e-mail describing the scene of the bombing in Lebanon yesterday, down the street from where he attends school. He saw people lying in the street who had been cut apart by the shards of broken glass that fell from windows in luxury hotels. Thus I feel nothing but the ludicrousness of somebody giving $400 million dollars to buy art for a museum. In a couple days though I am sure I will recover to my normal, de-sensitized self.

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I found out about this minutes after a friend had sent me an e-mail describing the scene of the bombing in Lebanon yesterday, down the street from where he attends school.  He saw people lying in the street who had been cut apart by the shards of broken glass that fell from windows in luxury hotels.  Thus I feel nothing but the ludicrousness of somebody giving $400 million dollars to buy art for a museum.  In a couple days though I am sure I will recover to my normal, de-sensitized self.

So you see this as a bad thing? Interesting...

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it will be interesting to see what develops in regards to the new building for 20th century and contemporary art. hopefully, there will be an international competition for an architect. perhaps we will have another significant piece of architecture to add to our great city.

although i love the fact the we have a museum district, i would like very much to have a significant (architectural gem) museum downtown or midtown.

not robert stern or michael graves please. i know gehry is cliche to some but i'm still green with jealousy over bilbao. tadao ando or renzo piano would be awesome too. how nice it would be to have more of their work in texas. zaha hadid would really make me happy as well.

is it true that they will destroy the new parking garage for the next expansion? anyone?

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They could just blow it on 2-3 Van Goghs. Irises cost the Getty Center in L.A. about 23 million alone.

So, three of those would add up to $69 million, leaving the vast majority un-"blown".

In any event, as the article stated, the money will be going into their endowment. It will not be "blown" on anything.

With respect to tearing down the parking garage, and replacing it with the new building... That is one of the options, but I'm pretty sure no decision has been made. In fact, it would be very surprising if anything that specific were decided this early in the process. I would imagine the placement of the new building might be part of any architectural competition. I believe the musuem owns some other land adjacent to its facilities as well, but I don't remember exactly which parcels.

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Let me think... Oh yes, you could be in the TOP FIVE, or TOP TWO, or you could even be the TOP ONE.

My point being that TOP 10 incorporates TOP 3, 2 or 1. It is weakly worded. Perhaps a better argument for you might have been "Top 10 INTERnationally".

I do hope the parking garage isnt pulled down as someone mentioned.

Has everyone seen the walk-way under the street from the garage to the museum? Rather cool in my opinion.

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My point being that TOP 10 incorporates TOP 3, 2 or 1. It is weakly worded. Perhaps a better argument for you might have been "Top 10 INTERnationally".

I do hope the parking garage isnt pulled down as someone mentioned.

Has everyone seen the walk-way under the street from the garage to the museum? Rather cool in my opinion.

The walkway is cool, but it's between the Law Building and the Beck Building, not between the parking garage and the Beck Building. I wouldn't mind seeing them tear down that parking garage, as long as whatever they replace it with addresses the street on a pedestrian level. That parking garage creates a bit of a psychological blockade to pedestrian activity, IMO.

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The walkway is cool, but it's between the Law Building and the Beck Building, not between the parking garage and the Beck Building.  I wouldn't mind seeing them tear down that parking garage, as long as whatever they replace it with addresses the street on a pedestrian level.  That parking garage creates a bit of a psychological blockade to pedestrian activity, IMO.

Was the garage built to eventually replace all the surface lots there?

Your right about the tunnel, I forgot it ran under main not fannin.

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Met and Getty, I knew. Kimbell, I'd take your word on it. My guess after that would be maybe the Whitney? Only other two that come to mind would be the Guggenheim and the Smithsonian (or NGoA).

My favorite museum doesnt qualify but its the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. I was a volunteer tour guide there for a summer.

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"Thus I feel nothing but the ludicrousness of somebody giving $400 million dollars to buy art for a museum. In a couple days though I am sure I will recover to my normal, de-sensitized self." (quote, h-town man)

h-town i can feel for you - i was in a taxi when i heard the news, talking on my cell to someone in austin trying to lobby for the children of texas who were kicked out of the chips program. but the feeling passed as i'm sure it has for you. i simply reminded myself that art is one aspect of life that encourages civility and often uplifts humanity. i also remembered that someone's last wishes must be respected and one of my grandma's favorites, "charity begins in the home" which reminded me that houston was indeed fortunate to be the recipient. the mfa does sponsor several art projects including the glassell school which includes many generous scholarships. well enough said, i just wanted to let you know you were not alone in your initial thought.

debmartin

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  • 1 month later...
Guest KOKON Steel

I'm planning on robbing the Beck Museum. Anyone want in on it?

Upstairs, they have a great collection of Renaissance paintings. There is one by ... well I won't say who painted it, but let's just say after I steal it and sell it, I will certainly be able to buy a convertible Hummer, if they make them. If not, I will convert it to a drop-top with the ample funds I will receive after selling the prized painting.

And if I can't pull it off, I will just try to rob the Cafe Express in the basement. Their #74 Express Burger (add Swiss) is delicious, but $8.00 after tax? C'MON! I will try to steal 4 or 5 of those babies and then run up the large exterior stairway that dumps me out onto Bissonett.

Anyone want in? I could use a look-out, and a getaway driver to be parked on Bissonett St.

It will be going down sometime in mid-October.

Let me know. Oh, and at 4:20 PM next Monday I will be smokin' weed in the Terrell Tunnel that connects the Beck to the MFAH. Come join me man, it'll be trippy.

-K. Steel.

PS: This whole post is a joke. Please don't flood me with hate-mail.

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  • 8 months later...

A new building is in the talking stages for the MFA. It would mainly house the 20th century and contemporary collections.

The museum has 3 sites in mind. One is at the current garage location on Fannin. Another is across Binz from the garage and a third is north of the Mies wing off Main.

There are any number of world-class architects worthy of the job. I'd like to hear any suggestions you might have regarding the selection.

Here's a few of mine:

Renzo Piano [Menil Collection; Cy Twombly]

03big.jpg

06big.jpg

Yoshio Taniguchi [MOMA and the new Aisa Museum in Houston]

Exterior_moma.jpg

Zaha Hadid [Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati]

Hadid-CAC-photo-3.jpg

c3.jpg

Rem Koolhaas [seattle Public Library]

20000709mag-kool.13.jpg

Those are but a few of my choices for architect.

If you could add any pictures with your choices, that would be great.

As always,

B)

Edited by nmainguy
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Hmm, out of those, I think I would go with either Yoshio Taniguchi or Zaha Hadid.

Hadid has done some fantastic work but she has a reputation for being "difficult". That may be because she is a successful woman in a man's world. Maybe if she was a man she would just be aggressive.

B)

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confluences0.jpg

akron0.jpg

A competition would be a great idea.

A selection committee bold enough to do some of the above would be fantastic!!!

B)

Considering that all three sites mentioned are right by the existing buildings and with the Museum District being what it is, I would be surprised if they went with a radical design. Pleasantly surprised, but surprised none the less.

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Considering that all three sites mentioned are right by the existing buildings and with the Museum District being what it is, I would be surprised if they went with a radical design. Pleasantly surprised, but surprised none the less.

The Main St. site would probably be the best if it were to be something more "radical".

B)

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I think the "starchitect" approach is the wrong one for MFAH. Better to hold a competition and get a good design than to just pay for a big name and get another box like the Beck. They will face a serious challenge with any new addition. A new building will have to somehow complement the existing structures without overwhelming them, so something too radical probably won't happen. There will be additional constraints from trying to integrate the physical spaces of three buildings on three different blocks in some coherent manner. Finally, the relatively small footprint and square block size will dictate some of the design. Finally (unfortunately), Houston is extremely conservative when it comes to architecture, so I think the museum would back off from anything too cutting edge.

Actually, it was exactly these constraints that explain some of the design of the Beck building. It was designed to maximize area within the block, hence the efficient but boring "big box". Also it had to be taller than the Law building while not overshadowing the Mies facade, which was meant to remain the focal point, hence the plain unadorned look. As much as I dislike it, I can understand how Moneo came up with it.

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I think the "starchitect" approach is the wrong one for MFAH. Better to hold a competition and get a good design than to just pay for a big name and get another box like the Beck. They will face a serious challenge with any new addition. A new building will have to somehow complement the existing structures without overwhelming them, so something too radical probably won't happen. There will be additional constraints from trying to integrate the physical spaces of three buildings on three different blocks in some coherent manner. Finally, the relatively small footprint and square block size will dictate some of the design. Finally (unfortunately), Houston is extremely conservative when it comes to architecture, so I think the museum would back off from anything too cutting edge.

Actually, it was exactly these constraints that explain some of the design of the Beck building. It was designed to maximize area within the block, hence the efficient but boring "big box". Also it had to be taller than the Law building while not overshadowing the Mies facade, which was meant to remain the focal point, hence the plain unadorned look. As much as I dislike it, I can understand how Moneo came up with it.

Architect's fees are often only a small percentage of the total construction cost.

The Main St. property north of First Pres is quite large.

The original William Ward Watkin building is distinctly opposed to the 2 Mies additions. Likewise, the Mies additions are wildly different from the Moneo. If you weren't familiar with the MFA and stood back and looked at the 2 you would have no idea they are related.

building2i1.jpgbuilding1i2.jpg

This is a great chance to have the best without the constraints of site and provenceal attitudes. When both Mies were constructed, they were seen as radical-I'm old enough to remember-unfortunatly :P ].

B)

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"The Museum Has Three Faces"

The original Watkins building is totally different from the Mies additions, but it is generally hard to see them together so it isn't quite as incongruous as it sounds, or could have been. I believe I read at the time the Beck was added that the main common point of reference between the Beck and Mies was the use of the same colored stonework facing. Other than that, the Beck avoids clashing with the Mies building mainly by being as featureless as possible. You are right that there is no stylistic continuity, which is a shame. I'm not saying the Beck should have copied the Mies, but perhaps at least echoed it enough to suggest that the buildings were related.

Another MFAH addition could be a great opportunity to put Houston back on the architecture map where it once was, but I'm not getting my hopes up that anything great will happen, although I have no doubt they will hire a big name for the design.

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This is a great chance to have the best without the constraints of site and provenceal attitudes. When both Mies were constructed, they were seen as radical

That's interesting they were thought of as radical, since today it seems pretty subdued, like a corporate office. Were they unpopular at the time, or were they accepted quickly?

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That's interesting they were thought of as radical, since today it seems pretty subdued, like a corporate office. Were they unpopular at the time, or were they accepted quickly?

I think people were stunned and curious at the time but once they stepped inside, all that melted away. It was-and still is-just a fantastic way to display art of all types and sizes. People latched onto it almost immediatly and have loved it ever since.

B)

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A new building is in the talking stages for the MFA. It would mainly house the 20th century and contemporary collections.

The museum has 3 sites in mind. One is at the current garage location on Fannin. Another is across Binz from the garage and a third is north of the Mies wing off Main.

There are any number of world-class architects worthy of the job. I'd like to hear any suggestions you might have regarding the selection.

Here's a few of mine:

Renzo Piano [Menil Collection; Cy Twombly]

03big.jpg

06big.jpg

Yoshio Taniguchi [MOMA and the new Aisa Museum in Houston]

Exterior_moma.jpg

Zaha Hadid [Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati]

Hadid-CAC-photo-3.jpg

c3.jpg

Rem Koolhaas [seattle Public Library]

20000709mag-kool.13.jpg

Those are but a few of my choices for architect.

If you could add any pictures with your choices, that would be great.

As always,

B)

Excellent examples. I think Houston needs just this sort of thing.

Here's another great builidng that would be a good museum. It's part of the University of Cincinnati.

VontzCenter-001.jpg

It's nice to see a Frank Gehry that's not all shiny and reflective.

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If Frank Gehry did get the commision for the mext MFA then perhaps he could break from his own mold of curvy, drunken designs - they are "neat" but not to my taste and look better in the middle of the woods given the organic nature of his buildings (alumnium siding not withstanding).

Perhaps even:

Lake/Flato

Miller Hull? - they might have to leave the Northwest School behind for this one

Antoine Predock

Herzog de Meuron

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If Frank Gehry did get the commision for the mext MFA then perhaps he could break from his own mold of curvy, drunken designs - they are "neat" but not to my taste and look better in the middle of the woods given the organic nature of his buildings (alumnium siding not withstanding).

True enough. Problem is that Gehry is a victim of his own success, and clients demand that curvy Gehry look. I read that for his Millenium Park commission he originally came up with something different, but they went back to him and requested the trademark swirling metal. I suspect that by the time the new MFAH is commissioned he will be considered kind of dated and 1990s.

I agree with Bach on the Ando. Something like the Ft. Worth Modern art museum would look great with the existing MFAH buildings.

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  • 1 year later...

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=206...&refer=home

Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Houston's Museum of Fine Arts was the top recipient of private donations among U.S. arts organizations in 2006, with a total of $185.8 million, according to a survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy released today.

New York's Museum of Modern Art was No. 2 in the survey, with $133.5 million raised.

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Yeah they are fundraising machines, too bad they seem to do that more than interesting exhibits. One of their last shows featured dog portraits. How interesting...

:lol::lol::lol:

They used to have live jazz/mixers every Thursday. Guess its been done away with unless your a member. This place has some great networking events going on year round, surprising how many people are unaware. Just minutes from everyone too. All ages need to be in tune with the fine arts. This woudl be a great Haif meet, serious.

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Yeah they are fundraising machines, too bad they seem to do that more than interesting exhibits. One of their last shows featured dog portraits. How interesting...

Actually, it was a nicely presented show that featured excellent works from both old and modern masters. It had great appeal for that large segment of the public who can't relate to the chic blockbuster Basquiat, another recent exhibit at MFAH.

The costs of putting on a major exhibit are staggering. In other countries, government funding bankrolls museums. In America, they are supported by the private sector. Securing the loan of art from any museum requires planning and negotiations that can go on for several years.

What type of show would you like to see at MFAH?

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