The Duncan Phyfe exhibit is now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Previously at the Met in New York, MFAH is the second stop for the exhibit. Most of what was on view in New York is available in Houston, but there are a few changes. Most notably the comparison of Phyfe furniture to that by Meeks is absent. There are also some examples of Grecian Plain furniture by unknown makers owned by the Museum (and before that Ima Hogg) that I don’t believe were in New York.
Though it was a Thursday morning, I didn’t notice many people in the exhibit compared to the crowds in the Met. There did seem to be a fair number of people in the museum at the time. I fear decorative arts exhibits in general do not have the cache they once did, while other applied arts like fashion bring in crowds. Furniture is a topic that appeals to what I fear is a narrowing audience.
Across the hall from Phyfe is an exhibit featuring items from MFAH’s own American art collection which includes decorative arts in a variety of styles. It starts with Portrait of John Gerry by Joseph Badger, the first Colonial portrait acquired by Ima Hogg. It is displayed with a child’s coat that descended with the painting.
From there we find a variety of furniture, objects and art all the way up to 1940s paintings by Arshville Gorky.
It’s a wonderful display from an exemplary collection. Leaving the exhibit I commented that it only takes one astute collector, and a city can have a great museum forever.