Above image: RED by Linda Pace
Image: Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1957, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. © 1998 by Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko. At the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
PAINTING THE PICTURE
The art scene in Texas is complex with a myriad of collectors, arts and organizations who only want the best for the state’s cultural future. Here, San Antonio and New York’s Ruiz-Healy Art Gallery owner Patricia Ruiz-Healy, PhD. and Lance Avery Morgan gather to share ideas about the state of the union of the art scene In Texas these days.
Ruiz-Healy Art Gallery’s Patricia Ruiz-Healy, PhD. is a wealth of knowledge and is privy to so much art. When asked what she’s seeing these days that she loves, because she sees a lot, she’s quick to share, “There are so many strong exhibits, from the current Blanton Museum Words Matters show about the importance of language in Latin America and Latinx artists, to the Museum of Fine Art Houston’s Kindred Spirits presenting the work of two women artists Louise Nevelson and Texan Dorothy Hood. Organizations are including more and more Latinx artists’ works (a person of Latin American origin or descent that offers a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina) to their surveys and more exhibits are now comprised of women artists. I am all for inclusivity in art. Plus, the programming at the Dallas Museum of Art, their Jonas Wood survey comes to mind, as well as El Paso Museum of Art who just had their 5th Transborder Biennial with good critical and public success are examples of the breadth of art here.
Miguel Covarrubias mural with Henry Moore sculpture at Dallas Museum of Art
There are so many art-focused organizations have raised funds for the arts and arts-related organizations like Two X Two in Dallas, Glasstire in Houston, The Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, The Contemporary Austin, and more. She shares, “It’s pretty comparable to fundraising in major art centers. The largest one in Texas, which I know of, is the Two x Two gala where almost 10 million dollars was raised recently. Texans are very generous human beings,” confides Ruiz-Healy.
So much so, that according to the Texas Cultural Trust’s 2019 State of the Art’s Report, the economic research, compiled from state and federal data sets, shows that taxable revenue from the arts and culture industry has grown by 15.5% over the past decade and in 2017 alone, the arts and culture industry generated $5.59 billion in taxable sales for the Texas economy, totaling nearly $350 million dollars in state sales tax revenue. The report also details the impact of the arts on Texas’ travel and tourism industry, which surpassed $75 billion in 2017, an approximate 9% increase from 2015. What a significant presence the state has in the world of culture.
We know that contemporary art and artists are abundant in Texas. The trends she is exposed to, and recommends investing in with Texas artists are plentiful. “If I were to place a bet, I will do it in African-American and Latinx artists. I think that the general public is just beginning to notice the amazing art contributions that Latinx artists are making,” says Ruiz-Healy. Texas has always had strong artists, Robert Rauschenberg and Julian Schnabel, just to mention two, whose 20th century works revolutionize what It was to create American Art. Now we have solid MFA programs and serious art programs in world class museums like The Menil Collection in Houston, the Nasher Sculpture Garden in Dallas and the McNay Art Museum and internationally recognize artists in residence programs like Artpace, San Antonio and the Core program at the MFA Houston. From these places artists are creating more significant work that has to do with today’s, and future, concerns.”
The McNay Art Museum is an interesting example of a cultural institution’s longtime presence in the state and according to them it engages a diverse community in the discovery and enjoyment of the visual arts. Built in the 1920s by artist and educator Marion Koogler McNay, the Spanish Colonial Revival residence became the site of Texas’s first museum of modern art when it opened in 1954. Today, more than 140,000 visitors a year enjoy works by modern masters from around the world. The 23 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds include engaging sculptures and space for meditative contemplation. The 45,000 square-foot Jane & Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions features three significant exhibitions annually. For 65 years, the McNay has enchanted visitors with its art, architecture, and ambiance. The museum offers rich and varied exhibitions as well as rotating displays in the Main Collection Galleries from the 20,000 works in the collection; more than 45,000 adults, teachers, students, and families take advantage of a variety of education programs and innovative educational resources.
In San Antonio the Linda Pace Foundation’s new Ruby City project is also of note in the art world. Set to open in the fall of 2019, it will surely be recognized around the world as a major force. Ruby City, a new contemporary art center, will open to the public on October 13, 2019, 12 years after the vision for the building was first imagined by the late Pace. Home to the organization’s growing permanent collection, the building is designed by Adjaye Associates in collaboration with Alamo Architects, and is dedicated to providing a space for the city’s thriving creative community to experience works by both local and internationally-acclaimed artists. The design for the 14,000 square-foot building is inspired, in part, by the Spanish Missions found throughout the Southwest, constructed by the Spanish Empire during the 16th to 19th centuries. The exterior skin consists of a precast concrete fabricated in Mexico City, which has been imbued with a rich red giving the building its ruby glow. For the first ten feet up, the concrete is a polished finish, ground smoothly to be touched by passersby; above, the concrete wall is rough, sharp, and encrusted with varying shades of red glass. Two crowning lanterns adorn the top of the structure, creating an animated roofline that in turn draws natural light into the gallery spaces. The interior entrance and lobby have also been constructed in the same crimson hue, preserve Pace’s original vision of a “ruby city.”
Artpace is another part of San Antonio’s art scene and is unique in many ways. In 24 years, they’ve showcased 239 artists, been awarded three Golden Lions, seven Turner Prizes, eight MacArthur Foundation grants, 17 Joan Mitchell Foundation grants and 46 Whitney Biennial Artists have been selected.
THE COLLECTOR’S EYE
When buying a piece of art, or collaborate with an artist or gallery, there are the several qualities of the artist, and their art. According to Ruiz-Healy, “I look for a new voice that talks about meaningful life aspects and formal elements have to be solid. In other words, the work message has to be resilient and has to look like it was done properly and professionally. The intersection of art and architecture is something that talks to me in a deeper level. I appreciate visiting wonderful sites where I can have a moving experience. Great architecture in museums, for example, is today’s cathedrals. This is one of the reasons that art people love visiting Marfa with their incredible work left by Donald Judd and his friends. That’s why I also believe that art galleries are never going to disappear because we want to experience art in a dedicated space.”
Then there are the art fairs the Dallas Art Fair, Pop Austin, Houston Art Fair and events in San Antonio at that level. They are good for both collectors and artists, she says. “Dallas does a very good job with their fair and so does the McNay Art Museum with their print and works on paper art fair. The McNay one has been going on for 23 years and it’s the only event of this type in the whole Southwest. To have a good art scene you have to have three things: artists, museums that showcase their work and art collectors. These three items go hand in hand.”
Collectors like Kenny Goss of the Goss-Michael Foundation and Howard and Cindy Rachofsky, both in Dallas, are stewarding private collections with a non-profit point of view is a path for the future. “I think that private collections, in dedicated spaces like Goss-Michael, the Rachofskys in Dallas, and the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium, do a good service to the community because they can inspire more art collecting and preservation. But at the end of the day you have to make active those spaces with meaningful programming otherwise you run the risk of deactivation,” states Ruiz-Healy.
If you are buying contemporary is important to buy with both the eye and the brains. Try to take your time in finding out why is a specific work talking to you. Here are three tips, according to Patricia Ruiz-Healy:
- Read the artist’s CV and biography.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions to the gallery director.
- Don’t make rush decisions, most galleries can put a work in hold for a brief period of time; and please don’t ever buy art in cruise ships or along the seine river.
The relationship between the artist/gallerist and the artwork buyer is important, shares Healy. “I have art collectors who only buy artists that they know personally, but most of my buyers don’t know the artist personally. As a gallerist the personal connection is very important, but I sell quite a bit electronically and in fairs where nobody knows me. At the end of the day is all about the work and that’s the way it should be. Collectors have so much information so now it’s easier to make decisions based on research.”
When asked what the perfect age for a collector to begin collecting is, Healy confides her point of view. “You can start as a ten-year-old with an original print that speaks to you. Print-making techniques like woodcut, lithography, etching, etc. have been around for centuries. There is this misconception that prints are not original, yet they definitely are because they were created with a specific technique in mind. The difference between print and paintings is that they are not unique. Printmaking usually forms part of a limited edition.”
We believe that art influences culture and fashion in Texas and Ruiz-Healy agrees. “Nowadays with digital information so engrained in our lives the intersections of art, culture, fashion, and food are more and more married. I think that culture influences art and very frequently art inspires fashion. We all live feeding each other in more ways that we can think of.”
In fact, art affects and influences every Texan, shares Ruiz-Healy. “Art can be many things for different people. In general good art has a distinctive presence and is many times a conversation piece. Texans enjoy beautiful clothes, homes, gardens and you have to have the art for to make your surroundings more special. The level of sophistication that art brings to a home cannot be match by anything else. You can have a beautiful hand painted wall paper but it’s just a nice wall paper it’s not a timeless work of art.”
“Good art is a special paragon of a club where most informed and sophisticated people want to belong to,” she says and we couldn’t agree more as the landscape of the Texas art scene will continue to revolve.