The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Coordinates: 29°43′32.5″N 95°23′25.5″W / 29.725694°N 95.390417°W / 29.725694; -95.390417

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), located in Houston, is one of the largest museums in the United States. The permanent collection of the museum spans more than 6,000 years of history with more than 62,000 works from six continents.

The museum benefits the Houston community through programs, publications and media presentations. Each year, 1.25 million people benefit from museum's programs, workshops and resource centers. Of that total, more than 500,000 people participate in the community outreach programs


The MFAH's permanent collection totals 63,718 pieces in 300,000 square feet (28,000 m2) of exhibition space, placing it among the larger art museums in the United States. The museum's collections and programs are housed in seven facilities.

Main Campus

  • Caroline Wiess Law Building
    Caroline Wiess Law Building
    - the original neo-classical building was designed in phases by architect William Ward Watkin. The original Caroline Wiess Law building was constructed in 1924 and the east and west wing were added in 1926. The Robert Lee Blaffer Memorial Wing was designed by Kenneth Franzheim and opened to the public in 1953. The new construction included significant structural improvements to several existing galleries—most notably, air conditioning. Two subsequent additions, Cullinan Hall and the Brown Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe were built in 1958 and 1974 respectively. This section of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston campus is the only Mies-designed museum in the United States. The Caroline Wiess Law building provides an ideal space in which to exhibit the museum’s collection of twentieth- and twenty-first-century artworks, as well as installations of Oceanic art, Asian art, Indonesian gold artifacts, and Pre-Columbian and sub-Saharan African artworks. Of special interest is the Glassell Collection of African Gold, the largest assemblage of its kind in the world

  • Audrey Jones Beck Building - Opened to the public in 2000, the Beck Building was designed by Rafael Moneo, a Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate and a respected Spanish architect of tremendous range. The museum Trustees elected to name the building after Audrey Jones Beck in honor of the large collection she had donated to the museum several decades prior. The building also doubles as the museum's main campus exhibition space with an additional 158,150 sq ft (14,693 m2).
  • The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden - was designed by US-born artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi and opened in 1986.The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden houses more than twenty-five masterworks by some of the most acclaimed artists from the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries from the MFAH and other major collections. The garden itself is a sculpture that unites the pathways between the Caroline Wiess Law Building and the Glassell School of Art.
  • Glassell School of Art
    Glassell School of Art
    - founded in 1979 and designed by architect S. I. Morris, the Glassell School of Art offers programs under the Studio School for Adults. The Glassell School of Art serves as the teaching wing of the MFAH, with a variety of classes, workshops, and educational opportunities for students diverse in age, interests, experience, and needs.
    Administration Building

The school offers classes at the Studio School for Adults and the Glassell Junior School, as well as Community Bridge Programs, special programs for youths, and the Core Artist-in-Residence Program.

  • Central Administration and Glassell Junior School of Art Building - The building, opened in 1994 and designed by Texan architectural designer Carlos Jimenez, houses the museum's administrative functions as well as the Glassell Junior School. The MFAH is the only museum facility in the United States that has a special building dedicated solely to art classes for children.

Other Facilities

  • Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
    Gardens at Bayou Bend, donated by Ima Hogg
    - features one of the nation's finest collections of American decorative art and furniture. The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, former home of Life Trustee Ima Hogg, was designed by architect John F. Staub in 1927. Miss Hogg donated the property to the MFAH in 1957, followed, in 1962, by the donation of its collection of paintings, furniture, ceramics, glass, metals, and textiles. Bayou Bend was officially dedicated and opened to the public in 1966. Situated on 14 acres (57,000 m2) of formal and woodland gardens five miles (8 km) from the main museum campus, the historic house museum documents American decorative and fine arts from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. It is esteemed as one of the nation’s premier museums of decorative arts.
  • Rienzi
    Rienzi House Museum
    - the MFAH house museum for European decorative arts, Rienzi was donated to the MFAH by Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III in 1991. The residence, named for Rienzi Johnston, Mr. Masterson's grandfather, is situated on 4.4 acres (18,000 m2) in Homewood Addition, surrounded by Houston's River Oaks neighborhood. The structure was designed in 1952 by John F. Staub, the same architect who designed Bayou Bend. Completed in 1954, Rienzi served as both a family home and a center for Houston civic and philanthropic activity from the 1950s through the mid 1990s. After Mr. Masterson's death, the MFAH transformed the home into a museum and subsequently opened it to the public in 1999


The Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is the oldest art museum in Texas. In 1917, the museum site was dedicated by the Houston Public School Art League (later the Houston Art League) with the intention of becoming a public art museum. The first museum building – opened to the public in 1924 – represented the determination of Houstonians to transform their growing city into a rich cultural center.

Trustees and staff dedicated the small art collection to the community and defined the function of the museum as bringing “art into the everyday life” of all Houstonians. Today the MFAH encompasses two buildings, the Caroline Wiess Law and Audrey Jones Beck buildings, that house its primary collections and temporary exhibitions; two decorative arts house msuems; The Glassell studio art school; a sculpture garden; a state-of the-art facility for conservation, storage and archives; and an administrative building with the Glassell Junior school of Art

Prior to the opening of the permanent museum building in 1924, George M. Dickson bequeathed to the collection its first important American and European oil paintings. In the 1930s, Houstonian Annette Finnigan began her donation of antiquities and Texas philanthropist Ima Hogg gave her collection of avant-garde European prints and drawings. Ima Hogg’s gift was followed by the subsequent donations of her Southwest Native American and Frederic Remington collections during the 1940s. The same decade witnessed the 1944 bequest of eighty-three Renaissance paintings, sculptures and works on paper from renowned New York collectors Edith and Percy Straus.

Over the next two decades, gifts from prominent Houston families and foundations concentrated on European art from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries, contemporary painting and sculpture, and African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian art. Among these are the gifts of Life Trustees Sarah Campbell Blaffer, Dominique de Menil and Alice N. Hanzsen as well as that of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Augmented by museum purchases, the permanent collection numbered 12,000 objects by 1970.

The MFAH collection nearly doubled from 1970 to 1989, fueled by continued donations of art along with the advent of both accession endowment funding and corporate giving. In 1974, John and Audrey Jones Beck placed on long-term loan fifty Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, augmenting the museum’s already strong Impressionist collection. This collection would never leave the MFAH, formally entering its holdings in 1998 as a gift of Life Trustee Audrey Jones Beck. The collection is permanently displayed in the building that bears her name. On the heels of the Cullen Foundation’s funding of the MFAH’s first accessions endowment in 1970, the Brown Foundation, Inc., launched a challenge grant in 1976 that would stay in effect for twenty years raising funds for both accessions and operational costs in landmark amounts and providing incentive for additional community support. Also in 1976, the photography collection was established with Target Stores’ first corporate grant to the museum.


With more than 62,000 works of art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has the largest and most diverse art collection in the Southwestern United States. The majority of the museum's collection lie in the areas of Italian Renaissance painting, French Impressionism, photography, American and European decorative arts, African and pre-Columbian gold, American art, and post-1945 European and American painting and sculpture. Other facets of the collection include African-American art and Texas painting. Emerging collection interests of modern and contemporary Latin American art, Asian art, and Islamic art continue to strengthen the museum's collection diversity. As a result of its encyclopedic collection, the museum ranks nationally among the top ten art museums in attendance.


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