Hometown Glory

The New York Times' Houston love affair intensifies with "suburban" Menil praise

The New York Times' Houston love affair intensifies with "suburban" Menil praise

The New York Times is keeping the Bayou City high on its radar. Nicolai Ouroussoff — architecture critic for the Grey Lady — listed the Menil Collection's exhibition on neo-absurdist artist Maurizio Cattelan (closing this week) No. 1 on his list of culture picks for "The Week Ahead" in its signature Sunday edition.

Wrote the critic, "Those desperate to escape the summer heat, especially the typical swelter in Houston, may want to slip into Maurizio Cattelan at the Menil Collection there for a bracing dose of Mr. Cattelan's skewed vision before the show closes at the end of this week."

Ouroussoff categorizes Cattelan as the well known art-world provocateur that he is, describing how many of the works — a row of what look like body bags on the gallery floor, a drummer boy perched precariously at the edge of the museum's roof, and raised (body-less) arms projected from the side of a wall in mock salute — "drip with Mr. Cattelan's usual sarcasm."

What makes the Menil Collection so noteworthy is that the artist himself co-curated the exhibition, juxtaposing his works with the permanent collection, such as a dead horse sprawled in front of three serene landscapes by René Magritte, resulting in what CultureMap's Joseph Campana describes as "a wonderfully disorienting trip through an iconic collection packed with masterpieces made humorously and disturbingly new."

Houston readers may scoff at the Times' description of the Menil's hyper-intellectual neighborhood as a "tranquil," "suburban setting," but Ouroussoff pays the museum its due with a mention of the celebrated collection of surrealist art.

Ouroussoff next spotlights in "The Week Ahead" the exhibition Underground Pop at the Parrish Art Museum — the contemporary art heavyweight of the Hamptons, now headed by Terrie Sultan, one-time director of the museum formerly known as Blaffer Gallery. Curated by David Pagel, the exhibition presents a quirky and idiosyncratic take on the Pop tradition of appropriating popular culture in the service of art while also delving into handcrafted, low-tech Folk Art territory — what the critic deems "an attack on the high gloss of today's mainstream art culture."

For those Houstonians lucky enough to find themselves in Southhampton over the next month, be sure to take a break from the waves at the oceanside art space.

The NYT's Menil praise comes on the heals of Vanity Fair piece listing the Menil building as the second best new building in the world (since 1980) in its World Architecture Survey. What's more Ouroussof's mentioning comes alongside another Times article from the weekend spotlighting Houston's ballet-crafting star Trey McIntyre.

Perhaps the New York media has finally caught up with Houston's cultural wealth.

The New York Times selected the Menil's exhibit of artist Maurizio Cattelan's works — including this drummer boy shot — as its No. 1 cultural pick for this week. Photo by Zeno Zotti
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The row of body bags and Photo by Markus Tretter
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the arms on the ball also received NYT mention. Photo by Attilio Maranzano