Taking its name from the French inn where Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall purportedly settled debts with paintings, La Colombe d'Or on Montrose Boulevard opened in the early 1980s with a goal of placing fine food and lodging on equal footing with fine art.
Housed within the 1923 mansion of oil baron W.W. Fondren, the boutique hotel has amassed an impressive art collection throughout the decades, displaying work from some of the biggest figures in 20th century art thanks to owner and collector Steve Zimmerman.
After receiving his law degree, the New Orleans-raised hotelier relocated to the Montrose area in the mid 1960s at a time when Dominique de Menil oversaw the art departments at St. Thomas University and (from 1969) at Rice.
On the first floor alone, a Man Ray print hangs inside the bar while a massive abstract work by Houston a rtist Dorothy Hood covers a full wall of the hotel lobby.
"Back then, a girlfriend of mine worked for Mrs. de Menil, while I was teaching political science at St. Thomas," Zimmerman told CultureMap during a lunch at the hotel's popular French restaurant Cinq. "At the time, if it didn't come from Tijuana on black velvet, I didn't think it was art."
Before long, the young couple would find themselves at parties with Andy Warhol and Max Ernst.
"I didn't want to seem like an idiot, so I started sitting in on art courses at St. Thomas and then at Rice with Bill Camfield," Zimmerman recalled, noting that classes were taught by some of the city's leading artists like Jack Boynton and John Alexander. "Next thing I knew, I was hooked and started buying art."
Walking through the La Colombe d'Or, guests will see that Zimmerman's interests tend to lean towards European modernists like Picasso and Braque, with occasional canvases from noted Texas artists such as Earl Staley. On the first floor alone, a Man Ray print hangs inside the bar while a massive abstract work by Houston artist Dorothy Hood covers a full wall of the hotel lobby.
On the third floor, Zimmerman has operated a dedicated art gallery since 2003, selling canvases and works on paper by masters like Salvador Dalí and Wifredo Lam to a small-but-devoted circle of area collectors.
Under the newly appointed directorship of Roxana Kouros, the La Colombe d'Or Art Gallery is expanding its outreach with a new exhibit highlighting works by the gallery's current stable of living European artists, including Francesco Caraccio, Guy Van den Bulcke and Adrien Moroni. A selection of rare prints from the estate of Pablo Picasso also will be displayed.
On view through June 23, Selected Works from the La Colombe d’Or Collection opens with a special reception at La Colombe d’Or (3410 Montrose Boulevard) from 6 to 9 p.m Thursday.