You know what Houston is, don't you? It's an intoxicating mix of old and new.
The new I knew about (Houston has no zoning to speak of, and residents say it eats its old buildings for breakfast); the not-so-new I didn't know until now.
The not so new came in the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum and the Menil Collection (neither of which is depicted at left). The latter is home to the Cycladic woman pictured above and to collections from the Byzantine and Medieval worlds, Africa, the Pacific Islands (notably a giant anthropomorphic slit drum from Vanuatu and a war and hunting god from Papua New Guinea), the Pacific Northwest, and, from closer to our own time and place, rooms devoted to Cy Twombly and surrealism.
The Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum offers an evocative setting for some thirteenth-century church paintings that have an interesting history.
The two museums are recent foundations, both having opened since 1987. The founders came from oil-drilling money. It's always good to reflect on the wealth and power that brought great art collections together, whether in the museums and the National Gallery founded by the railroad and steel barons from Boston to Washington, or in the Vatican museums. It's one more layer of pulsating life behind all that art, and it's nice to know that rich people can find good things to do with their money.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009