Local oil baroness Dominique de Menil nourished the careers of Robert Rauschenberg, Max Ernst, and many other artists here, but her most lasting legacy is the free-admission Menil Collection, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year with an impressive bequest by David Whitney. The exhibit, running through October 28, 2007, includes rarely seen works on paper by Jasper Johns and Claes Oldenberg.
A quarter of a mile south, in the heart of Montrose, a newly built arts complex at 4411 Montrose Boulevard houses five of Houston's top galleries. They’re all worth checking out, but don’t miss two: the Barbara Davis Gallery, known for showcasing works from major names like Chuck Close, Louise Bourgeois, and Kiki Smith; and the Anya Tish Gallery, which draws heavily on Russian and Eastern European artists. Just down the street is the excellent McClain Gallery, which follows up a current Louise Nevelson retrospective (through June 10, 2007) with a pair of summer exhibitions featuring recent works from China and tile fabrications and drawings from the Italian-American sculptor Renee Lotenero. About two miles away, on Main Street—another gallery row—hit the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, which displays a striking array of found-art sculptures, and the Inman Gallery, a proving ground for New York–bound artists like Dana Frankfort and Brent Steen.
Another must-visit fifteen minutes to the east: Project Row Houses, a live-work community in the largely African-American Third Ward neighborhood. Twenty-two traditional shotgun cottages are preserved for local artists and artisans, creating unconventional gallery space for their photos, sculptures, and prints. And don’t leave town without stopping at the Live Oak Friends Meeting, whose simple frame also holds an extraordinary James Turrell sky piece, best seen at dusk or dawn.