I am still very sad this morning about the passing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's director Peter Marzio. His death affects everyone from museum directors and artists all over the world down to a regular museum patron like me. Even though the last few years I have spent much more time at the Houston Museum of Natural Science than at MFAH because of volunteering, I have always kept my membership up at MFAH and the museum would always be one of the first things to pop into my head when I wondered what to do with my free time.
I remember becoming aware of his name when there was a span of a few years where MFAH hosted exhibit after exhibit of amazing Impressionist work. How many people know the names of the museum directors? I bet a lot of regular MFAH members know his name. Many times as I would read a story about an exhibit that was only being shown in one place in the United States, Houston, it was always because of other institutions respect for Peter Marzio. His regular letters to the membership were always interesting and passionate.
If you are a numbers person here are some numbers for you. When Marzio started 28 years ago the museum's collection numbered 13,000 pieces. Today it is 62,000. When Marzio started the museum's attendance was 380,000 a year. Today it is 2 million a year. When Marzio started the museum's endowment was $25 million. Today it is $700 million. Under his tenure the Audrey Jones Beck building, the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden and the Rienzi house were all added to the museum. For 28 years the museum operated on a balanced budget.
I am sad for what Houston has lost. I am sad because he worked hard to get the American Associations of Museum to host their annual museum meeting and expo in Houston and it is going to happen this May and he won't get to see it. I am sad because he was a driving force and elevated Houston in the arts community and I can't imagine who could possibly step in and fill those shoes.
You can read the museum's tribute here.