PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity May 2024 Houston

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 69 of 99

A fter living in a four-story house in Montrose for six years, David Brown had enough of the stairs and the neighborhood's constant bustle. "It was just too much for me to handle, and I'd been looking for a space to move when a friend told me about a condominium that had come up for sale," he says. "I didn't think a condo would be anything I'd be interested in, so I put it off for a few weeks. Eventually I just decided to take a look, and when I opened the door, it immediately felt right." With 12-foot concrete ceilings, exposed ductwork, and an "awesome" view of downtown, it reminded him of a Manhattan loft. "It was just the opposite of my last house, and I absolutely loved it." Brown, known for his 40-year-old namesake River Oaks-area floral design boutique, is also a consummate collector of contemporary art; the residence's prime location in Houston's Museum District sealed the deal. He spent the next eight months transforming the unit to display his broad art collection, which ranges from traditional African artifacts to Modernist and Contemporary works. Some of the most noteworthy pieces include American abstract expressionist Joseph Glasco; Spanish sculptor Francisco Sobrino, a pioneer in the Op and Kinetic movements; and artist Luis Tomasello, whose 1967 show in Paris, "Light and Movement," was a groundbreaking moment for Op Art. Most recently, he's focused on building a strong collection of regional artists, with works by Texas heavyweights Jamal Cyrus, Joseph Havel, Joe Mancuso, James Surls, James Drake, and Julian Schnabel. Brown has also assembled a trove of prized furnishings over the decades, ranging from 18th-century antiques to archival mid- century pieces and contemporary furniture from Italy. His apartment is ideal for showcasing such well-considered collections. "It's like living in a gallery because of the scale of the spaces," he says. "I had to learn to display things differently than in my previous houses." The challenge proved exhilarating. "I love change, and I love the creativity that comes from it." The main living area, which measures 12 by 75 feet, is a tough space to work with. "They call this the bowling-alley plan because that's what it's like — it's so long," he says. The rambling corridor's living and dining areas are comprised of expertly composed seating groups and vignettes that draw your eye to some 40 pieces of art. "Even the dining room is a work of art in itself because it's a collection of about 400 years of styles put together very cleanly," Brown says of the variety of furniture. The space gleams with metallics, including a 1966 chrome Warren Platner dining table and glossy graphite-hue dining chairs designed in 2009 by Song Wen Zhong for Roche Bobois, who based them on mythical dragons and Ming dynasty armchairs. A classic gilded French armchair from the early 19th century is reupholstered in a copper-hued Donghia fabric. Brown acquired the table's centerpiece, a plaster-and-wood sculpture by Joe Mancuso, before he knew the piece was titled Bouquet, which he finds delightfully ironic given that he makes his living arranging flowers. Brown planned to tear out the tall shelves in the corner that a previous owner had installed, until he realized they'd be perfect to hold his small sculptures and Japanese vases. Brown has an almost spiritual connection to wood, so naturally he fell in love with Robin Utterback's wood collage, a tactile, energetic piece that echoes the room's earthy tones. "All of the art and furniture have to work in harmony, he says. "I can tell immediately when I bring something home if it's not working; It upsets the dialogue." D avid Brown grew up in the northeast Texas town of Jefferson, and as a child loved to dig in his father's flower and vegetable gardens. He was also fascinated by architecture and abstract art, particularly the works of Jackson Pollack and Louise Nevelson, which he tried to replicate. After earning a degree in architecture from Texas Tech, he landed in Houston in 1974, designing high-rises. After five years, he decided to pursue something more creative, so he bought a store in Houston called the Ivory Hunter, which sold tropical plants and reproduction African artifacts. Over the years, the shop evolved into his highly touted flower- design business, but his love for art never waned. "That's when I sort of stumbled into the art world here in Houston," he says. He has a good eye for buying art, and several pieces from his collection have been on loan to museums; in 2022, Brown donated a major work by Colombian artist Miguel Ángel Rojas to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He likes all types of art — and that can sometimes be a problem. "I started accumulating so much that someone finally said, 'David, you're never going to stop collecting but you need to focus.' I decided to go back to my roots and limit new acquisitions to only Houston and Texas artists, because there's so much good stuff here. I got to know a lot of the artists over the years, so the pieces aren't just art. They're memories of friends." Recently, Brown visited artist Joseph Havel's Houston studio to Flower master David Brown's new Museum District loft is a stunning repository for his collections. Opposite: In the living area, early 19th-century Biedermeier chair and 19th-century Portuguese chest from Found. Nineteenth-century daguerreotype case from Inman Gallery. On chest, Dario Robleto Twin Pulse 1890, 2014. On wall from left, Joseph Havel bronze sculptures from Josh Pazda Hiram Butler Gallery; Shane Tolbert acrylic artwork from McClain Gallery. Mid-20th-century folk-art glass vase. 68

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - PaperCity May 2024 Houston