Light in a box
Like heaven: James Turrell's wonderous lights leave museum bigwigs marveling in mystique and awe
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has opened numerous magnificent exhibitions with preview dinners for patrons and sponsors, but few have immersed the invitation-only guests in such a sea of wonderment as Thursday night's launch of James Turrell: The Light Inside.
As they moved through the seven immersive light environments, guests such as Nancy and Rich Kinder, Macey Reasoner and sisters Christiana McConn and Carroll Goodman were clearly awed by the stunning play of light, space and time. The compelling End Around, a complete submersion in light and color, moved Mary Cullen to comment, "That's the closest thing to being in heaven I've ever experienced."
The artist himself was obviously pleased with the presentation of works that took months in assemblage in the Upper Brown Pavilion. "This is the way I want to see it. So this is the perfect moment for me," he told guests gathered at the dinner that followed tours of the light environments.
"I"ve had a good time in Houston, an amazing time in Texas and now you've stolen my son (Brendan) who lives in Austin."
The impressive turnout included Los Angeles County Museum of Art CEO and director Michael Govan and Guggenheim co-curator Nat Trotman, with both institutions featuring related Turrell exhibitions this summer. Austin-based collector Suzanne Deal Booth, who funded Turrell's Twilight Epiphany at Rice University, mingled with Rice art director Molly Hubbard, gallery owner Hiram Butler, Turrell's wife Kyung Turrell, and collector Neil Kelley.
Centerfront on this evening was Alison de Lima Greene, MFAH curator of contemporary art and special projects, who organized the Houston segment of the exhibition in close collaboration with Turrell, and MFAH associate director Willard Holmes, who was also instrumental in the project.
Moving from the Law Building where the exhibition is staged, the 200 guests passed through Turrell's tunnel, "The Light Inside," providing an artistic transition from exhibition to seated dinner in a gallery of the Beck Building. Here, brief remarks were made before City Kitchen began the dinner service.
"This is a big thing for an artist. It's quite something to be in front of you who support art and make it happen," Turrell said. Among those patrons responsible for the exhibition, as recognized by MFAH director Gary Tinterow, were the Brown Foundation, Leslie and Brad Bucher and Sara Dodd.
The heavy-hitter group included outgoing MFAH board of trustees chair Cornelia Long and Meredith Long, Bill Hill, Aliyya and Herman Stude, Kathy and Marty Goossen, Wally Wilson, Jeanie Kilroy, Carla Knobloch, Sharyn and Jim Weaver, Divya and Chris Brown, Bobbie and John Nau, Sima Ladjevardian, Minnette Boesel and Margaret Williams with Jim Daniel.
"I"ve had a good time in Houston, an amazing time in Texas and now you've stolen my son (Brendan) who lives in Austin. Maybe I should move to Texas," Turrell quipped.