PaperCity Magazine

December 2014 - Houston

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DECEMBER | PAGE 72 | 2014 Alison Greene has seen every exhibition I have done. I couldn't ask for more. Walter Hopps saw every exhibition when he was alive. I had to keep ashtrays and coffee for him. EARLY STANDOUTS. The two most important exhibitions on Portsmouth were Vernon Fisher's installation and the Forrest Bess exhibition. We sold all the Bess paintings to Hirschl & Adler Modern [New York]. I was thrilled. Was I naive. They sold them for 10 times what I did. ON SHOWING FORREST BESS EARLY ON. The Forrest Bess exhibition [1987] happened because of Terrell James. She worked for me in the gallery at the time and had worked on his archive for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. She introduced me to his work and was instrumental in helping me organize and track it down. Walter Hopps also figured into the mix, urging us to do it. I was friends with Howard Barnstone; he was a Bess collector and must have had something to do with it. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MR. BESS. I was taken by the quality of the tiny paintings and how someone from such an isolated place as a bait camp in Chinquapin, Texas could carry on a correspondence with Carl Jung and Meyer Schapiro and make work that was exhibited at Betty Parsons. MILESTONES. I did an exhibition [in Spring 1985] of Twombly drawings from the 1960s. No one was interested. Helen Winkler came and brought her children. I also did an exhibition of all of Diane Arbus' work [1988]. Anne Tucker put me in touch with a collector who generously lent it all. ON THE BEGINNING OF THE BLOSSOM STREET GALLERY. I found the tear-down that is now my house and tried to buy it in 1987. I loved the simplicity of the shape of it. The owner wouldn't sell it to me. I kept pestering him and asked him why he wouldn't sell an abandoned house. He said because he owned the rest of the property on the block and that it would kill his investment to break off a piece of it. He offered me the whole parcel, which of course I couldn't buy because I couldn't get financing and said so. He said he'd finance it if I brought him a plan. I brought him a plan for the house, garden and gallery. He liked it, and it was financed as a built to suit with a lease option to purchase after five years. We did it. VINTAGE OF YOUR COTTAGE. The house was probably moved here in 1880 from a spot closer to the bayou after a flood. It was probably built 10 or 15 years earlier. The roof had fallen in, and the piers had sunken to the ground. Squirrels had filled the walls with pecans up to about four feet. There was no plumbing. It still had an outhouse. BLOSSOM'S UNVEILING. The gallery opened in September 1988, a year after The Menil Collection opened. Harvey Phillips of Dallas was the architect. I was introduced to him by Laura Carpenter. GARDEN DESIGNER. Johnny Steele, with a big overlay of late collector Sue Pittman. FOUR DEFINING SHOWS FROM THE EARLY YEARS. 1. James Turrell print exhibition [1990] that opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It came to me, and then I sent it on to Williams College. It was later exhibited at the Kunstmuseum Basel, when Josef Helfenstein [the current Menil director] was the curator there. It is a small world we operate in. 2. Walter Hopps asked us to show Rauschenberg's Shirtboards while his retrospective was up at MFAH, CAMH and Menil [1998]. He wanted to show them but was short of space. I happily adjusted my schedule. 3. Dean Ruck's installations. The one of hay, which was a play on Walter de Maria's Earth Room, was spectacular [1995]. 4. A group show of Virgil Grotfeldt, Joseph Havel and James Surls [1993]. LONGEST-STANDING ARTISTS IN THE STABLE. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Vernon Fisher and James Turrell. I actually worked with them before coming to Houston. I met Timothy in New York in 1979. He had an apartment for rent in the East Village. I was his tenant. I showed Turrell's work for years before meeting him. Helen Winkler introduced me to James after a lecture of his at Rice. ON MoMA COMING TO DINNER. Glenn Lowry brought a group of MoMA trustees to Houston. After they visited the Turrell Quaker Meeting House, I had them for supper. Several weeks after they had visited, I got a call from Glenn, MoMA's museum director. I had to take a deep breath, knowing I was going to sell something to the Modern. He asked if I shared recipes and would I give him my recipe for mustard mousse. AROUND THE DINNER TABLE. Another great guest was Octavio Paz. He had been staying at the medical center for days, waiting for a heart procedure. He called and said that we shared a good friend, Bob Littman. He said he was sick of hospital food. I invited him for dinner, and over he came. I have to admit I didn't cook that night. I rushed home and started cleaning house. I realized I was in trouble, so I called my friend George Shackelford and asked him if he could make a home-cooked meal and bring it over. He did, and no one was the wiser. PERSONAL TREASURES. I collect Greek antiquities, specifically pots. The earliest I own is 9th-century BC. The most important and perhaps beautiful is on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: It is 4th-century BC and by the Achilles Painter. All the rest of my pots are at the Williams College Museum of Art. I love them, but since I essentially live in Above: Carroll Dunham lithograph on Ilse Crawford bench from Kuhl-Linscomb. Left: Vernon Fisher's XOXO, 2014. Below: Jasper Johns' Flags, 1967 (left); Cy Twombly's Untitled, 1970; and James Turrell's From the Guggenheim, 2013, on center wall). Noguchi lantern. Marcel Breuer chairs. Peter Huidt settee. Durham coffee table. Sisal rug designed by Cathy Chapman. ABOVE, FROM TOP: James Turrell's Roden Crater photograph hangs above Turrell's Roden Crater Site Plan drawing, 1982. Robert Wilson's Clementine Hunter Rocker. Robert Wilson's Bessie Smith Breakfast Chair is serenely sited in the garden.

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