Sunday, January 2, 2011

The MFAH and Collectors

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Betsabeé Romero, Guerreros en cautiverio (Captive Warriors), Carved tire with gold leaf, 2006

I went to the Museum of Fine Arts today and saw Cosmopolitan Routes: Houston Collects Latin American Art, a large show of Latin American art ranging from the beginning of the century to the present. It's filled with an amazing variety of pieces and is well-worth a visit. Now I have mentioned before how tricky it is to show the work of collectors. The problem is that when a museum shows work you own, it becomes more valuable because the museum bestows a stamp of legitimacy and quality on things it displays. That said, in this case there were quite a few collectors, so it avoided the problem that "single collector" shows have, which is a lack of curatorial authority. In this case, someone (I'm not sure who) went to all these collectors and assembled a show, picking the work that seemed just right for it.

The MFAH is, of course, a collecting museum. They acquire new pieces every year. Expanding their collection of Latin American art has been a mission of the MFAH since 2001. So I wonder if these pieces they showed will end up in the permanent collection one day? How does that work? Does the MFAH identify collectors who may gift them the work or will it to them? Or does the MFAH go even further and work with collectors on choosing the work. "Lou, Gail! [*airkiss*] We want to have a top-notch Dario Robleto in the collection, and one is coming up to auction. Would you bid on it, dear? And then will it to us?"

I'm not being facetious. I have absolutely no idea how this works, but at the same time, I do know that the MFAH has close relationships to Houston's big money collectors. It's the mechanics of how those relationships work which interests me. I'm sure it's a complex dance.

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res, Chica Azul, from the "Conatus" series in collaboration with Constanza Piaggio, Chromogenic print, 2006

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