Shelby's Social Diary

A first look at the luminous Skyspace: Rice's art game changer is introduced to the world

A first look at the luminous Skyspace: Rice's art game changer is introduced to the world

News_012_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_James Turrell_Michael Govan.jpg
James Turrell , Michael Govan Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_021_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Turrell Skyscape.jpg
James Turrell's Skypace intrigues as the light play moves deliberately across the spectrum of color. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_008_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Suzanne Deal Booth_Molly Hubbard.jpg
Suzanne Deal Booth , Molly Hubbard Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_017_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Leslie Bucher_Brad Bucher_Judy Nyquist_Hiram Butler.jpg
Leslie Bucher , Brad Bucher , Judy Nyquist , Hiram Butler Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_015_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Gary Tinterow_Y. Ping Sun_David Leebron.jpg
Gary Tinterow , Y. Ping Sun , David Leebron Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_020_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Turrell Skyscape.jpg
From rose to pale blue to orange, the colors keep changing throughout the LED computerized program. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_013_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Christopher Gardner_Sarah Whiting_Molly Crownover_Ron Wite.jpg
Christopher Gardner , Sarah Whiting , Molly Crownover , Ron Witte Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_011_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Aaron Sandnes_Maggie Kayne.jpg
Seating is both inside the pyramid and at the balcony level. Aaron Sandnes , Maggie Kayne Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_002_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Katherine Ross_Michael Govan_Lynn Wyatt_Roubi L'Roubi.jpg
Katherine Ross , Michael Govan , Lynn Wyatt , Roubi L'Roubi Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_019_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Tricia Dewhurst_Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.jpg
Tricia Dewhurst , David Dewhurst Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_010_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Mickey Klein_Josef Helfenstein.jpg
Inside the Skyspace pyramid, guests sit on granite benches. Mickey Klein , Josef Helfenstein Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_014_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Josh Pazda_Chris Goins.jpg
Josh Pazda , Chris Goins Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_006_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Tara Conley_Fabené Welch.jpg
Tara Conley , Fabene Welch Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_012_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_James Turrell_Michael Govan.jpg
News_021_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Turrell Skyscape.jpg
News_008_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Suzanne Deal Booth_Molly Hubbard.jpg
News_017_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Leslie Bucher_Brad Bucher_Judy Nyquist_Hiram Butler.jpg
News_015_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Gary Tinterow_Y. Ping Sun_David Leebron.jpg
News_020_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Turrell Skyscape.jpg
News_013_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Christopher Gardner_Sarah Whiting_Molly Crownover_Ron Wite.jpg
News_011_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Aaron Sandnes_Maggie Kayne.jpg
News_002_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Katherine Ross_Michael Govan_Lynn Wyatt_Roubi L'Roubi.jpg
News_019_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Tricia Dewhurst_Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.jpg
News_010_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Mickey Klein_Josef Helfenstein.jpg
News_014_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Josh Pazda_Chris Goins.jpg
News_006_Turrell Skyscape dedication_May 2012_Tara Conley_Fabené Welch.jpg

As if on cue, those gathered in the James Turrell Skyspace for its formal dedication Friday night on the Rice University campus fell into a cathedral-like silence. Light play from the computerized LED system that ebbs and flows across the roof aperture of this rare art installation began softly, slowly and then dramatically intensified.

The vivid continuum of color diffusion grappled with the senses of everyone present, demanding complete surrender.

And surrender to the concept of art's central position on a college campus was the underlying motivation for Suzanne Deal Booth, a Rice art history major, whose generous gift made the Turrell installation possible. Though she calls Austin home, Deal Booth has spent much of the last two years in and out of Houston as the Skyspace became reality.

"It's something new and iconic for the university that I hope will be a game changer." 

Friends of the benefactor came from around the world and across the art community to witness the unveiling of the project that has been years in the making. Italian art historian Stefano Aluffi-Pentini of Rome, London-based hedge fund manager Pierre Lagrange and designer Roubi L'Roubi had traveled the farthest. Staglin Family Vineyard owners Shari and Garen Staglin were in from Napa Valley. 

Studying the contours of the pyramid-like structure were Los Angeles County Museum of Art director Michael Govan, Nasher Museum director Jeremy Strick, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Gary Tinterow and The Menil Collection's Josef Helfenstein.

As she surveyed the artful landscape, Deal Booth said, "For me, it's a homecoming. It's something new and iconic for the university that I hope will be a game changer."

"When I was a student here at Rice, I was really involved with the de Menils and Dominique was my very great mentor," she said. "Coming back here, I felt that the humanities needed to be bumped up a bit. I'm hoping this will be like a big flag saying 'Hey, the humanities are still here.' "

Turrell was the rock star of the evening that included the dedication program followed by a seated dinner where dedication chairs Judy Nyquist and Leslie and Brad Bucher, both Rice graduates, presided.

"This really is in many ways the culmination of our campus art program." 

Asked how he felt at this juncture, Turrell quipped, "Well, it's always a relief. Oh, I think you can find the same answer from Molly as well." He was referring to Molly Hubbard, Rice University art director, who has worked with Deal Booth and Turrell throughout the project and who organized the evening.

Between greeting various guests at the dedication, Rice University president David Leebron noted, "This really is in many ways the culmination of our campus art program. It's a tremendous addition and I think the symbolism at our Centennial and when you consider that one of our mottos is No Upper Limits, what would better symbolize that than this magnificent piece of art . . . with its integration of art, architecture and music, I couldn't imagine anything more perfect for us at this time."

Among those mesmerized by the Skyspace were Rice architecture dean Sarah Whiting, Shepherd School of Music dean Bob Yekovich, Tricia and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Y. Ping Sun, Fairfax Randall, Molly Crownover, Lynn Wyatt, Anne Duncan, Christopher Gardner, Sarah Dodd Spickelmier and Keith Spickelmier, Tara Conley, Emily ToddAlison de Lima Greene, Ford Hubbard III and collector and former Houstonian Mickey Klein, in from Austin.

Don't miss CultureMap's exclusive interview with James Turrell on the Skyspace.

ADVERTISEMENT