PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston May 2021

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Page 37 of 115

ROBSJOHN-GIBBINGS SIX- FIGURE SUITE OF FURNITURE FROM THE STRAUSES BROKE RECORDS AT NEW ORLEANS AUCTION GALLERIES Carol and Robert Straus' pioneering modernist footprint in Houston includes commissioning the first modern house in River Oaks, paired with the design prowess of post-war master T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. By Catherine D. Anspon A New Orleans Auction Galleries catalog from April showed a magnificent suite of post-war master T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings' furniture from the Houston estate of the late Carol Austin Straus (1912- 2014) and Robert D. Straus (1907- 1982). Just who were the Strauses, who had the prescience, taste, and courage to commission such a vanguard as Robsjohn-Gibbings in the 1940s … in Houston? A bit of sleuthing shows the Strauses as leaders in Houston's post-war art, design, architecture, and museum scene, as well as trailblazers in the city's society. Although overshadowed by their pals Dominique and John de Menil, the Strauses were instrumental in prompting the de Menils to join the nascent Contemporary Arts Association that the Strauses co- founded in 1948, which would go on to become the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, one of America's oldest institutions devoted to contemporary art. Not only were the Strauses co-founders, but Carol Straus served on the museum's first board of directors, an erudite group of eight that included John de Menil, architect Karl Kamrath, and artists Robert Preusser and E.M. "Buck" Schiwetz. Mrs. Straus was the only female board member — an indication of her pivotal role in the era's visual arts and design circles. (Continued on page 38) T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings' custom Oak Side Chairs surround the designer's custom Oak and Leather Square Games Table, all circa 1946. Bronze sculpture Marcello Mascherini's Senza Titolo, undated. Artwork Byron Browne's oil on canvas Black Lion, 1947. 36

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