Not many galas come with two big stars. Make that three.
One obvious star attraction at the opulent Blanton Gala was the rehung permanent collection. In a mixture of formal and gallery attire, guests promenaded up the grand staircase early in the evening to view the American, European, Latin American, video and special exhibit rooms. They looked fantastic, more clearly articulated and presented, along with almost twice as much art on display as in the past at the 10-year-old University of Texas art museum.
The other two stars shined as well. Folks from New York, Santa Fe, Dallas, San Antonio and especially Houston joined Austinites in celebrating the Blanton’s very special patrons — Michael and Jeanne Klein. These art collectors have been with the Blanton and director Simone Wicha every step of the way. They donated “Stacked Waters,” which transformed the museum’s rather chilly atrium, and they led the way in acquiring and building “Austin,” Ellsworth Kelly‘s campus retreat now under construction — it is expected to open in a year.
Not coincidentally, the Kleins, who enjoyed two rapturous standing ovations during the gala and gave a very funny speech in tandem, have promised to give a collection 28 videos to the Blanton. It includes works by Tania Bruguera, Isaac Julien, Pipilotti Rist and others. The museum will share ownership of pieces by Eve Sussman and Ana Mendieta with the Whitney Museum of American Art.
As part of the reinstallation, the Blanton has created a gallery — where the contemporary installations once stood next to the soon-to-be-delivered Meredith Lounge — dedicated to the ongoing display of video works. Its inaugural installation is artist Javier Téllez’s “Letter on the Blind For the Use of Those Who See” (2007), one of the Kleins’ promised gifts to the Blanton.