Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Houston, TX

(713) 639-7300


Major Expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Moves Forward with the Construction of the Audrey Jones Beck Building


Photographs of Model of Audrey Jones Beck Building © Aker/Zvonkovic

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is nearing the final phase of a 15-year period of planned expansion as the construction of the Audrey Jones Beck Building nears completion. The Beck Building of galleries is designed by the esteemed Spanish architect Rafael Moneo and will more than double the museum's exhibition space, catapulting the MFAH from thirtieth to sixth largest in the nation, with 158,150 sq. ft. dedicated to the exhibition of the museum's encyclopedic collection of art.

Construction of the Beck Building will be completed in 1999, and the public opening will be in March 2000, the centennial anniversary of the institution. Also under construction is a three-story parking garage, exhibition ticketing center, and museum service building. These new facilities occupy two city blocks adjacent to the existing museum campus, which comprises the Caroline Wiess Law Building of galleries, an administration building, the Glassell School of Art, and a sculpture garden. Under the leadership of MFAH board of trustees chairman Alfred C. Glassell, Jr., the capital campaign for the expansion project has raised $112 million of the $115 million goal. Left: Rafael Moneo, architect and Peter C. Marzio, director of MFAH at grounbreaking ceremony for Audrey Jones Beck Building; Right Above: Rafael Moneo

Peter C. Marzio, director of the MFAH, commented, "As the Audrey Jones Beck Building rises from the ground, the profile of Houston is quite literally changing, and our eyes are on the future. This final phase of the MFAH expansion brings with it a redefinition of the entire institution and its ability to serve the public through its commitment to excellence in the collections, exhibitions, education, and outreach."


Expansion History

The new building is named in honor of Audrey Jones Beck, a life trustee of the MFAH and donor of the John A. and Audrey Jones Beck Collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, which has been on view in the museum's galleries since 1974. The paintings in the Beck Collection were personally selected by Audrey Beck and her late husband and are a rich selection of Impressionist, Pointillist, and Fauvist works. The Beck Collection contains paintings by artists such as Gustave Caillebotte, Paul Cezanne, Andre Derain, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, and Georges Seurat, among others, and is one of the public's most cherished collections of the museum.

In addition to the Beck Building, the expansion has included the installation of the Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi; the purchase and renovation of an off-campus art storage and conservation facility; and the construction of a building on Montrose Boulevard on the museum campus to house the Glassell Junior School and the administrative offices of the MFAH. The expansion projects also have included major renovation of the two house museums, Bayou Bend and Rienzi, that respectively hold American and European decorative arts collections of the MFAH. Simultaneously, the 1978 Glassell School of Art building was refurbished with a new central plant, new school studios and offices, and a new auditorium with seating for 100 people. Above: Construction, 1998 at Audrey Jones Beck Building © Aker/Zvonkovic

The Audrey Jones Beck Building will be the central repository for the museum's collections of art from antiquity to 1920, including Renaissance and Baroque art from the collection of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation and the John A. and Audrey Jones Beck Collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. Several collection areas now shown selectively-American art to 1920, prints, drawings, and photography-will have permanent galleries for the first time. Additional galleries have been designed to accommodate special exhibitions, enabling the MFAH to attract large traveling exhibitions previously prohibitive because of space limitations.


History of the MFAH

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston traces its origin to the Houston Public School Art League, which was founded on March 24, 1900 with a mission of encouraging art education. In 1913, the organization changed its name to the Houston Art League, and by 1917, the land for a museum building had been acquired. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston opened on April 12, 1924, the first art museum in Texas, and the third in the South. From its inception, it was planned to house a comprehensive collection of art. Left: Construction, 1998 at Audrey Jones Beck Building; Right: Aerial View of MFAH © Aker/Zvonkovic

Today, the permanent collection of the MFAH spans more than 6,000 years of history with more than 40,000 works from six continents, making the museum the largest in the Southwest and a major educational resource for the region. Public participation in MFAH activities is now at a record high, with a membership of 43,000 households, ranking the museum seventh in the nation in number of members. The museum has 1,095,000 visitors and a total of 1.5 million participants in its programs annually.

Museum education and community outreach are major components of the museum's commitment to the public. In 1997, the MFAH received an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Award for Museum Service which honors museums that demonstrate commitment to public service with innovative programs addressing social, economic, or environmental issues.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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