Proud of its world-class arts scene, Houston invites everyone to come check it out

For decades, this sprawling city of 6 million was considered a necessary pit stop for business travelers. Lately, though, thanks to its booming (and global) economy, Houston’s population has become incredibly diverse, drawing new residents from the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and both U.S. coasts. Some 200,000 newcomers have arrived in the past three years alone, among them entrepreneurs, artists, chefs and designers. Most important, the city’s old guard is constantly reinvesting in its beloved community, with the result that institutions such as the Houston Ballet Center for Dance and the Asia Society Texas Center are opening state-of-the-art facilities and bringing in stellar shows and exhibits. Here are some highlights of the Lone Star State’s growing cultural landscape.

Visual Arts

Move over, oil and gas—art is becoming one of Houston’s prime attributes, thanks mostly to private investors and philanthropists (many of whom made their millions in, well, oil and gas). Best of all, a number of the 100-plus museums are free to the public.

The privately owned Menil Collection, housed in the first U.S. building by the Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano, displays pieces ranging from Byzantine antiquities to paintings by Picasso and Warhol. Next door, the Cy Twombly Gallery has more than 50 works by the namesake American artist, known for his large-scale paintings and drawings. (As proof of Twombly’s influence on contemporary art, note that he is the only U.S. artist with a permanent installation—a 3,767- square-foot canvas of planets and orbs—in the Louvre.)

Also on the 30-acre Menil campus is the Mark Rothko Chapel. The octagonal brick building houses 14 of the artist’s abstract works. Just outside, don’t overlook artist Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk sculpture, created in 1963 and dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Located in the city’s Museum District, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is an inviting spot for art novices (depending on the exhibit, you’re even allowed to take pictures). CAMH is celebrating its 65th season with the cutting-edge “Outside the Lines” show, which explores the future of art across different mediums.

The Asia Society Texas recently moved to new digs close by—a striking building by Yoshio Taniguchi. You can tell that the Japanese architect was a perfectionist: Only the finest materials were used throughout the $48.4 million structure—Jura limestone from Germany, American cherry wood, Italian Basaltina stone—and the building runs on underground geothermal power.

After viewing the artworks on display, go into the center’s Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater and settle into one of the 273 plush seats—they’re made by the same guys that outfit Ferraris and Maseratis.



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