Houston Gets Arty

This jewel in Houston’s art scene is housed in an award-winning, all-metal structure that complements its contemporary art.

Houston is easy to overlook; it doesn’t have the flashiness of Dallas or the indie subculture of Austin. But Texas’ most populous city, and surprisingly the country’s most diverse, has a quiet modesty which makes it a fantastic place to visit. If you can overlook the city’s odd zoning (or lack thereof), Houston is an easy and rewarding weekend getaway.

Founded in 1900, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s collection numbers more than 56,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present.

Growing Arts Scene
The city is working to establish itself as a cultural hub, and a spat of new museums and high-profile exhibits are drawing locals and art-hungry travelers. Looking to discover the next Picasso? Check out Lawndale Art Center where you can meet artists working in their studios.

Mark Rothko, one of the most influential American artists of the mid-century was commissioned by the de Menils and given the opportunity to shape and control a total environment to encompass a group of fourteen paintings he especially created for this meditative space.

Prefer to seek inspiration in your art, and maybe even a little peaceful meditation? Spend an hour contemplating the Rothko Chapel, one  of the world’s best collection of Rothko paintings. Needless to say, there’s plenty of art
to fill your days. And the cherry on top of the fine-arts sundae? Many of the museums and galleries are free.

Rice University revealed its newest on-campus art installation, James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace, in mid-June 2012. It is the 73rd in a series of structures by the American artist that have been built in over twenty countries world-wide. Despite their individual differences, all use light and space to alter the viewer’s perception of the sky.

Highlights of an art-soaked trip to Houston

One of the most significant of the twentieth century, the collection consists of nearly 15,000 works dating from the Paleolithic era to the present day.

  • Lawndale Art Center: This unassuming art-deco building combines a beautiful façade with a huge graffiti art mural, a fitting representation of the the diverse art found inside. The center hosts contemporary local artists and artist studios. Closed Sundays. Free.
  • Asia Society Texas Center: The newest addition to the Houston arts scene (opened April 2012) is worth a visit for the architecture alone, which was designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi (the mind behind MoMA’s 2004 expansion). Closed Mondays. Free.
  • The Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel: The Menil is a stunning collection along with thoughtfully-curated rotating exhibits of contemporary arts. The nearby Rothko Chapel was custom built by the Menil family to host 14 large Rothko paintings, and also acts as a non-denominational chapel. Menil Collection is open Wednesday-Sunday and the Rothko Chapel is open daily. Both are free.
  • Contemporary Arts Museum Houston: This sleek, all-steel building houses intimate, rotating exhibits of emerging artists. Open Wednesday-Sunday. Free.
  • Museum of Fine Arts: Houston’s most expansive collection is home to pieces from the Stone Age alongside contemporary film art and a huge calendar of events. Worth a trip alone to see James Turrell’s “The Light Inside,” a trippy, optical illusion of a light tunnel. Closed Mondays. Admission: $10.
  • The James Turrell Skyspace: Did you like that light tunnel at the MFA? Then check out this cool installation at RIce University by the same artist, James Turrell, which opened in June. The piece, called “Twilight Epiphany,” encourages visitors to view the ever-changing sky as part of the art work. Reservations required. Free.

    The James Turrell Tunnel at the Museum

Where to Stay
Hotel Zaza is the go-to spot for Houston’s luxury travelers with an eye for style, and is within walking distance of many museums. With a black and gold color scheme and rooms names like “It Happened One Night” and “Fatal Charms,” the hotel brings out your inner rock star. Check out the pool and the hopping restaurant, “Monarch.” Rooms start at $239.

The Houston Museum District welcomed a new cultural institution in 2012 with the opening of Asia Society Texas Center’s 40,000-square-foot headquarters. The Yoshio Taniguchi-designed center features a flexible classroom and conference space, an art gallery, a theater, three lifted gardens and a cafe.

This trip was sponsored by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Hotel ZaZa is Houston’s newest, modern luxury hotel, with a pool and a spa, conveniently located in the heart of the Museum District.

About Anna Stancioff

With 15 years experience working in travel and hospitality, Anna Stancioff has a serious case of wanderlust. Anna has visited more than 30 countries and has promoted some of the world's biggest names in travel, with a specialty in luxury hospitality. She is interested in design, architecture and the arts, as well as active and adventure travel. Anna is based in New York City, and will never say no to a game of pinball.

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