Blanton Museum gives 500 artworks to 17 Texas museums

The Blanton Museum of Art is passing out of 500 works of art to 17 other Texas museums. These are part of the historic collection of 700 pieces transferred last year to the University of Texas museum from the Contemporary Austin. The Blanton will keep 200 pieces that match its current collecting strategies more closely.

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Margo Sawyer’s ‘Blue,’ 1998, detail of wood tempera and gold and silver leaf. Collection of the Grace Museum, gift of the Blanton Museum of Art, 2018, transfer from the Contemporary Austin, partial gift of the artist, with funds generously provided by ArtPace, A Foundation for Contemporary Art/San Antonio; Deborah and Tom Green; William F. Stern; Lee M. Knox, Juan and Carmen Creixell, and an anonymous donor.

In 2017, the rapidly growing Contemporary decided to part ways with its eclectic collection collected put together rather haphazardly by its predecessors, including the Laguna Gloria Art MuseumAustin Museum of Art, Texas Fine Arts Association and Arthouse. 

RELATED: What move of Contemporary Austin collection means to the Blanton.

Its leaders will concentrate instead on the Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria and its “museum without walls” program that places art around the city. It will continue to stage temporary shows at its downtown Jones Center location.

RELATED: Austin museum picks winner of $800,000 art prize.

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Julie Speed’s ‘Portrait of Mr. Magritte,’ 2000. Gouache and collage on 19th century engraving 15 1/2 x 12 3/4 x 1 1/2 inches. Collection of the Witliff Collections at Texas State University, gift of the Blanton Museum of Art, 2018, transfer from the Contemporary Austin, purchase through funds provided by the Sarah and Ernest Butler Family Fund, 2002.

For its part, the Blanton continues to add to its collection of nearly 18,000 objects. It displayed some of the work transferred from the Contemporary in a special show that highlighted Texas and Austin artists, including UT grads Jules Buck Jones, Lance Letscher and Eduardo Muñoz Ordoqui.

Some of the works transferred to other Texas museums — hungry to have them — were pieces by distinguished artists such as Alexander Calder, Dorothy Hood, Luis Jiménez, Alex Katz and Robert Rauschenberg.

“As part of this large and thriving arts ecosystem, the Blanton is proud to support other Texas institutions in serving their communities,” Blanton director Simone Wicha says, “while also preserving this important collection of Texas art for future generations.”

Participating institutions included the Amarillo Museum of Art; Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont; Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, affiliated with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi; the Grace Museum, Abilene; International Museum of Art & Science, McAllen; Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, Kerrville; Longview Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Texas Tech University, Lubbock; Nancy Fyfe Cardozier Gallery, Odessa at the University of Texas Permian Basin; Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts, Spring; Regional Arts Center, Texarkana; San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts; the Wittliff Collections and Texas State Galleries, San Marcos; Tyler Museum of Art; Visual Arts Gallery, Brownsville at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; and Wichita Falls Museum of Art at Midwestern State University.

 

Catherine Taylor to lead Bullock Texas State History Museum

The Texas State Preservation Board has chosen museum veteran Catherine Taylor to lead the giant Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Catherine Taylor to lead Bullock Texas State History Museum. Contributed

Most recently director of museum resources at the Nantucket Historical Association, the native Texan also served as a district superintendent for California State Parks, overseeing nine museums and state historic parks. She also played multiple roles at the California State Railroad museum.

She earned he BA in history from California State University-Sacramento and she graduated from the Museum Management Institute at the University of California-Berkeley.

“We expect her wealth of experience in all facets of museum operations to take the Bullock to new levels of excellence,” said Rod Welsh, State Preservation Board executive director. The board oversees the State Capitol, Capitol Extension, Capitol Visitors Center, Governor’s Mansion, Texas State Cemetery and their grounds, as well as the history museum. “The museum is at a pivotal point. It will be the centerpiece of an exciting project to redevelop the Texas Capitol Complex into a thriving cultural district that connects the north and south sides of Congress Avenue around the State Capitol.”

The museum attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year and collaborates with more than 700 museums, libraries, archives and individuals to display original artifacts and host exhibitions. It does not collect artifacts.

 

Scope out UT’s fabulous ‘Collections’ as it goes free and digital

One of the most beautiful and compelling books to come out of Austin in many a year is “The Collections,” an encyclopedic account of the 170 million artifacts preserved by the University of Texas.

It’s a big one. The doorstop, released in January 2016, comes in at 720 oversized pages. I’ve browsed through it incessantly and have cooked up some tasty stories from its contents, derived from more than 80 collections of art and artifacts over a wide range of subjects.

Wonder of wonders: It’s now available for free digitally.

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If you prefer the hard copy, the list price is $125.

RELATED: ‘Collections’ highlights unusual and historic objets held at UT.

“This is the first time a publication of this kind has been produced by a public university,” said Andrée Bober, the book’s editor and director of the university’s public art program, Landmarks. “By making it available for free and online, we are putting the collection before a greater public. It’s our hope that this digital edition will increase awareness of these materials and inspire other universities to make their collections known.”

Bober conceived this survey and organized more than 350 individuals to lend their expertise. She’s an enormous asset to the university, to say the least.

The warm, loving, slightly boozy embrace of the Austin Critics Table Awards

The Austin Critics Table Awards ceremony was long. Very long. A record four hours at Cap City Comedy Club.

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Yet the 25th anniversary celebration of all things arts might have been the best one ever. Because every minute was a warm, loving, slightly boozy embrace between artists and the writers who cover them.

I loved every tribute from the critics and (almost) every enthusiastic and authentic acceptance speech. (Why do some people choose a moment of honor to be mean?) Bonus: a witty proclamation from Austin Mayor Steve Adler for the occasion

RELATED: Behold: The Austin Critics Table Awards nominees

Some people — well, a lot of people — left early. But then they missed the best acceptance speech of the evening, given by Christine Hoang, who shared the David Mark Cohen New Play Award with Lisa Thompson, and who talked about how each word from her reviews reduced her “imposter anxiety,” and whose bilingual play, “A Girl Named Sue,” represented a social and cultural leap for the descendants of Vietnamese refugees and their families.

The big news, however, was the expansion of the Critics Table to 20 members including web-based writers, a move I’ve strongly supported for years. The Table began with just five of us newspapermen, sole survivor Robert Faires reminded us — I no longer vote — and over the years has included more than 50 writers.

AUSTIN CRITCS TABLE AWARDS 2016-2017

W.H. “Deacon” Crain Award for Student Work: Madison Williams, Emily Ott

Lighting Design: Jason Amato (“Atlantis: A Puppet Opera”), Patrick Anthony (“A Perfect Robot,” “Old Times”)

Group Gallery Exhibition: “The First Horizons of Juno: Christina Coleman, Jane Hugentober, Candice Lin, Karen Lofgren, Christine Rebet, Alice Wang and Chantal Wnuk,” Mass Gallery

Museum Exhibition: “Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser,” Blanton Museum of Art

Singer: Donnie Ray Albert (“The Manchurian Candidate,” “I Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes”), Liz Cass (“Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance”), David Adam Moore (“The Manchurian Candidate”), Paul Sanchez (“Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance,” “A Christmas Carol”)

Chamber Performance: “I, Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes,” Living Paper Song Project

Original Composition/Score: “Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance,” Graham Reynolds & Lagartijas Tirades al Sol

Scenic Design: Chris Conard (“Totalitarians,” “The Drowning Girls”), Desiderio Roybal (“Clybourn Park,” “The Price,” “The Herd”)

Short Work, Dance: “Camille: A Story of Art and Love,” Jennifer Hart

Solo Gallery Exhibition: “Tammie Rubin: Before I Knew You, I Missed You,” De Stijl Podium for Art

Artist: Deborah Roberts

Costume Design: Susan Branch Towne (“One Man, Two Guv’nors,” “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”)

Dancer: Alexa Caparedo (“Tikling(bird),” “Loose Gravel”), Amy Morrow (“Hiraeth,” “We’ve Been Here Before”)

Ensemble Dance: Dance Repertory Theatre (“Momentum”)

Gallery, Body of Work: “Museum of Human Achievement”

Independent Project: “Workout with Erica Nix,” Erica Nix

Ensemble, Classical: Schumann Chamber Players

Classical Concert/Opera: “The Manchurian Candidate,” Austin Opera

Sound Design: Lowell Bartholomee, “Clybourne Park,” “Fahrenheit 451”

Direction: Jenny Lavery (“The Drowning Girls”), Lily Wolff (“Lungs”)

Dance Concert: “Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees,” Sharon Marroquin, produced by Latino Art Residency Project, Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

Choreographer: Lisa Nicks, “Dear Johnny, in Response to Your Last Letter”

Digital Design: Greg Emetaz, “The Manchurian Candidate”

David Mark Cohen New Play Award: “A Girl Named Sue” (Christine Hoang), “Underground” (Lisa Thompson)

Ensemble, Theater: “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe,” Doctuh Mistah Productions

Actor: Liz Beckham (“Lungs,” Neva,” “Clybourne Park), Chase Brewer (“Hand to God”), Michael Joplin (“Lungs”), Amber Quick (“One Man, Two Guv’nors,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Herd”)

Production, Theater: Clybourne Park (Penfold Theatre), “The Drowning Girls” (Theatre en Bloc), “The Great Society (Zach Theatre)

Special Citations: Luis Armando Ortiz Gutierrez, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Andrea Ariel, Babs George, “Rambunctious,” Jennifer Sherburn for “11:11,” Theatre Synesthesia, Sandy Yamamoto, Thr3e Zisters,” Amy Downing.

Austin Arts Hall of Fame: Katherine Brimberry and Mark L. Smith, Zell Miller III, Kate Warren

UPDATE: Thanks to Robert Faires for correcting some embarrassing typos in names banged out quickly this morning.

Famed Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, sending works to Austin

The news broke early this morning that Ai Weiwei, among the world’s most influential artists, would send two monumental works to Austin.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

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We offer a snippet to Austin Arts:

“The extraordinary, long-term loans — no end dates have been announced — were arranged by the Contemporary Austin and the Waller Creek Conservancy with help from a $1.1 million grant from the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation. Family-friendly activities are scheduled for the Waller Creek site from 10 a.m. to noon June 3.

“This project taps into one of my greatest passions — bringing art directly to the public in ways and in places that they may not expect it,” said Louis Grachos, director and CEO of the Contemporary Austin. “When I started at the Contemporary, I spoke of creating a ‘Museum Without Walls,’ and these projects with Ai Weiwei are exactly what I dreamed of bringing to Austin: works that inspire wonder while addressing important social and political issues that affect us all.”

Go see this Blanton Museum show!

We were dubious about the humor behind this conceptual art outing. But we walked away charmed and cheered.

FULL STORY: Laughter and magic fill this must-see Blanton Museum of Art exhibit.

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Excerpt:

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). “Now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!”

It is tempting to attribute the title of Nina Katchadourian’s delightfully off-kilter show “Curiouser” to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In fact, the ingenious Brooklyn-based artist says the name of her big Blanton Museum of Art show is a close fit to her profession.

Constantly in a state of wonder about the mundane world, Katchadourian feels like a “curious-er,” not unlike a “farm-er” or “build-er.”

Still, there’s an “Alice”-like appeal to this large exhibition spread out over several rooms downstairs at the Blanton.

Two wall-sized projects, constructed or reconstructed at the museum by the artist, look like oversize genealogical charts. One is made up of postcards from around the world, including Austin. Katchadourian has altered some of the familiar images with delicate red threads that appear to connect key elements.

Flashback to Farrah Fawcett at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum

Lots going on over at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum these days. Right around the corner is the glorious Umlauf Garden Party on April 27.

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Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett working in studio, Austin, 1971. Contributed

Before that, the Tailwaggers neo-gala will be held at the museum to benefit Austin Pets Alive.

RELATED: Revolt against the traditional Austin gala at Tailwaggers.

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Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett with Umlauf’s ‘The Kiss,’ Austin, 1971. Contributed

Now through Aug. 20, the main gallery is populated with “Mentoring a Muse: Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett,” a closer look at the bond between the eponymous sculptor and a prized and loyal student, who went on to Hollywood fame.

Fawcett, Standing Nude, n.d., photo by Maryhelen Murray
‘Farrah Fawcett, Standing Female Figure,’ n.d., bronze, photographed by Maryhelen Murray. Contributed by Blanton Museum of Art

Some of the objects come from the Blanton Museum of Art as part of the Bequest of Farrah Fawcett.

Yet another event on tap: Tuesday, April 4 on the Umlauf Terrace, four panelists will share their memories of Fawcett for a museum event called “Friends of Farrah.”

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Charles Umlauf, ‘Untitled [Farrah, looking right]’, c. 1966, detail, charcoal on paper. Contributed

They include Sylvia Dorsey, Fawcett friend since UT days. She lives in Austin.

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Andy Warhol (attr.), ‘F.F. Eye,’ n.d., ink on folded cloth napkin, photographed by Maryhelen Murray. Contributed by Blanton Museum of Art.

Also expected: Gray Hawn, also a friend of Farrah since the late star’s Austin days.

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Charles Umlauf, ‘Head Study of Farrah,’ 1977, bronze. Contributed

As well as Karen Spelling, childhood friend of Farrah from Corpus Christi and UT/Austin.

Umlauf, Female Head Bookend (open eyes), n.d., photo by Maryhelen Murray
Charles Umlauf, [sculptural head attached to bookend I], n.d., terra cotta, acrylic, photographed by Maryhelen Murray. Contributed by Blanton Museum of Art.
And finally, Greg Walls, Fawcett’s nephew and caretaker of Farrah’s personal archives, who lives in Houston.

How will the federal axe to arts, humanities and public broadcasting affect you personally?

Eighty programs would lose federal funding under the president’s proposed budget. Among the independent agencies to be eliminated: Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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That doesn’t mean that what these agencies do would go away altogether. There’s still a lot of politics to go before they turn out the lights.

And, as the New York Times reported, Republicans legislators are lining up to fight for the NEA and NEH, for instance.

Also, all three endeavors maintain strong support from donors and others, especially in urban area such as Austin.

As some observers have pointed out, the cuts will hurt rural, low-income voters the most, since all three agencies are required to distribute their services fairly evenly across the country.

So how do you expect these cuts to affect you directly and concretely? We want to know. You can leave a comment here or send a short note to mbarnes@statesman.com.

Texas Medal of Arts honorees testify

You’ve read the statistics.

The arts have grown into a $5.5 billion industry in Texas, according to a 2017 State of the Arts Report released recently by the Texas Cultural Trust, an advocacy group. The industry generates, too, nearly $343.7 million in state sales tax revenue annually.

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Additionally, you know by now how the arts affect education, tourism and the economy, especially in this town, where all varieties of creative efforts thrive from the grassroots up.

Those kinds of arguments make reasonably persuasive cases when lobbying the Texas Legislature for support. Yet much more can be said directly — from one Texan to another — about the value of the arts.

Before the Texas Medal of Arts awards — given to Texans by the Texas Cultural Trust — arrive with parties and grand ceremonies Tuesday and Wednesday, we asked the honorees what the arts have meant to them personally.

We’re updating the Austin Arts blog with recent and relevant material from other Statesman and Austin360 pages. See the rest of this story on Texas Medal of Arts here.

Ballet Austin among Austin’s best

Don’t take the arts in Austin for granted. Because it wasn’t always this way.

During the past few weeks, I’ve rediscovered Austin’s arts. Not that I ignored them during the past 10 years. But with everything else going on in this city, it’s not easy to focus on one thing at a time.

I’m now reminded that Austin is home to first-rate symphony, opera, ballet and choral ensembles, along with equally potent theater, dance and performance troupes, art museums, community arts groups and public art projects.

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Edward Carr (Beast) and Michelle Thompson (Belle) in “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast.” Contributed by Tony Spielberg

Thirty years ago, Austin artists showed enormous creativity. The scene crackled with energy. But it lacked top leadership, revenues and facilities. Those have arrived — or are on the way.

EXAMPLE: A new museum in Austin: It’s called the Blanton.

A search of GuideStar.org reveals that, since the last time I checked 10 years ago, Austin arts groups have doubled, tripled or in some cases quadrupled their revenues.

No longer the skinny teen that needed reassurance and safeguarding. Rather the arts have reached a sort of gorgeous maturity that will always need steady reporting, storytelling and celebrating from all sorts of writers.

I was reminded of this at a matinee performance of Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast,” packed as it was with every stripe of Austinite.

RELATED: Ballet Austin explores love, death and sex.

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Demetria and Reid Wilson at Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux.” A dancer, she convinced him to attend. He was grateful she did.

I do not hesitate to call Stephen Mills‘ and Graham Reynolds‘ ballet a masterpiece. Every moment was riveting, ravishing. It dealt with the emotional residue of sex in a way that made me shiver and, in the end, weep.

After the show, an Austin artist approached me at the H-E-B.

“Thank you so much for writing about the ballet the other day,” she said. “I haven’t paid enough attention to them and your article made me want to go. I adored the show. I won’t ignore them from now on.”

My own reporting interests still encompass a wide swath of Austin — social, historical, literary, etc. — but I won’t blink when it comes to exalting the arts whenever appropriate.