Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sat 9 Mar - Houston, TX

We awake to an overcast Houston wet on the ground. We are taking our time getting ready when a Fun Run goes past our window. Based on the average running speed and shape of the people we are pretty sure it's not a marathon (not that we could do any better!) Very colourful though. We confirm later with Google that it is the Bayou City Classic Downtown Fun Run with a maximum distance 10km.

Another leisurely breakfast where we stuff ourselves (honest we really do eat fruit, cereal and poached eggs, but admit to also eating some unhealthy stuff). Just before 10am we jump on a tram to the Museum District.

Our destination, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH). This is one of America's premier art galleries and it is a very impressive collection, but in two rather dull concrete buildings, connected through an underground tunnel.

The oil and real estate money in Houston created a lot of wealthy people with many who liked to collect or sponsor art. That's why they have gifts to the museum of 2,500 year old Greek and Egyptian artifacts and beautiful valuable European paintings. A total of 62,000 works in their collection but obviously not all can be on display.

Despite all the wealth behind the MFAH it costs $13 each to enter. Below is a photo of just the main entry foyer before you come up to the European art and ancient Egyptian pieces.

Photos below of some of the pieces in the foyer of the gallery...and Di. She is the one to the left.

This is Venus, not Di.

The guy to the left says he's old and classic too...

Upstairs the ancient Egyptian burial pieces are so well preserved you can see the smallest details in the paintings on the sarcophagi and burial jars. Below is a photo of a display of an Egyptian child mummy, which was both fascinating and also a bit sad to think it's a deceased 3 or 4 year old child on display.

MFAH explain the mummy below and include a CT scan copy of the mummy skeleton.

One of the galleries is hosting a temporary exhibition of portraits from the Prado Museum in Madrid but it costs extra and without sounding smug, we've been to the Prado, so we prefer to focus on American and European art.

The collections are jaw dropping...

  • One collection is a gift from Audrey Jones Beck who was granddaughter of Jesse Jones, the man who is described as "the real estate developer of Houston". Ms Jones Beck went to Paris and bought her first impressionist work at the age of 16. Her collection consists of about 150 paintings including Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Monet, Sisely to name a few.
  • The Sarah Blaffer Foundation collection is renaissance and baroque art. Ms Blaffer's money came from daddy, who was a cofounder of Texaco. Great that the art is now available to all but the size of these collections makes it really clear how much money was here (and probably still is).
Whew, we were a bit overwhelmed and needed a seat to rest and take it all in.

The Blaffer collection includes some English artists too, like Turner and Gainsborough and also an English artist who specialized in painting dogs. Di thought her mum and also her friend Bev would like this one.

A quick break in the popular museum cafe for a coffee and lemonade and then a journey to the other side through the Wilson tunnel. It's a light installation and changes colour. Really cool.

We didn't spend too much time in the second building as we are not after Islamic, Chinese and Korean art today. We returned to the main building to focus on American artists such as Remington, Jackson Pollack and even Tiffany. Unfortunately, due to another visiting exhibition, this one Picasso - Black and White, the American section of the gallery was cut short.

The MFAH is amazing and worth a day. We understand why TripAdvisor reviewers rated it the number 1 thing to do in Houston.

Back to downtown ranch in the tram.

Later, we Skype with Jeremy back in Oz. All good, and it was great to see and hear from him. He seems to have settled in quite nicely all by himself in our place.

We had dinner locally at District 7 Grill, less than 2 blocks away from Crowne Plaza and just on the other side of the I45. Angus beef hamburger for Hans and Panko Shrimp for Di. Both very good and not very expensive.
District 7 Grill is in a stainless steel shell, built like a train carriage and seemed like a place that the local well healed young people go for a bite before going out for the night. They also have BYO wine only. First BYO place that we have encountered in the US.
Back to base early. Tonight, daylight savings time starts in the US and runs for 8 months until early November (that's long). We have a 7.45am bus to catch tomorrow morning to New Orleans, and that has now become 6.45am body clock time. Well, we can sleep on the bus...

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