January 5th, 2010
Vaughan Christopher Gallery: Art in Recognition
In 6 Words: Pop, Art, Red, Superman, Dendrologist, Lock
For some of us, the last time we were in a place used solely to showcase art, it was a museum field trip and we were either too young or too absorbed with what we were going to have for lunch to appreciate the art. It’s difficult, as adults, to find the time to explore the types of places that enrich our lives culturally. Especially since once we get past school age, there’s no longer anyone to organize our lives or our free time. If I was to pick a single gallery in Houston where one could see truly great art and not be intimidated by to your lack of art knowledge, it would be the Vaughan Christopher Gallery.
The Vaughan Christopher Gallery is a temple to the kind of recognizable art that we see reproduced in prints, T-shirts and tackily enough, coffee mugs. In the style of many beautiful spaces in Houston, the gallery looks like it used to be someone’s house. The door is always locked, so if a gentle knock doesn’t bring someone to your aid, give it a few minutes and the director, Jay Erdman, will welcome you in. Perhaps due to the locked door, or the fact that I am the only other person in the gallery, I feel as though I have been granted permission to enter a secret place as I walk in.
As I wander around the ground floor, taking in the space, Erdman is generous enough with his time to explain that the theme of the current exhibit he has hung. The ground floor is titled, The Red Show, and, as you may have guessed, all the works presented do, in fact, incorporate the color red. The walls are adorned with works from Picasso, Henry Moore, Matisse, Chagall, Miro and Dali, to name a few. As I admire the paintings, I continually steal glances out the window into the courtyard behind the gallery, where a magnificent tree towers at such a formidable height that you have to believe it has been there a hundred years, if not more (a dendrologist I am not).
Walking up the stairs to the second floor, I observe that every available space in the gallery has been taken advantage of and even the walls of the staircase boast the etchings of Damien Hirst. A small shelf, placed in the landing that divides the two sets of stairs leading to the second floor, is littered with books that prominently feature Hirst’s name on the cover. Near these books that catalog his work is a quote typed and tacked on the wall by the overpaid artist. Allegedly, he is the richest living artist to date.
After taking in all the Hirst I possibly can for a day, I ascend to the second floor to continue my worship of some of the great artists that defined 20th century art as we know it. The second floor is divided into two rooms, one small and one large. The smaller room is almost exclusively dedicated to the display of the two pop artists, Warhol and Lichtenstein. The walls are so crowded with pieces that some of the ones that don’t quite fit can be found sitting on the floor, leaning back against the wall.
The larger room contains, amongst a plethora of beautiful things, a wood engraving from Salvador Dali’s French edition of a series titled Divine Comedy, which was commissioned by the Italian government to honor the 700th birthday of the Italian poet Dante Alighiere. This particular piece caught my eye mostly due to the price tag of $3000, which was significantly lower than the price tags on other pieces I had admired in the gallery. It felt good to know that for a fraction of my costs in the pursuit of higher education, I could own a piece of work that I had studied in my art books.
I end my private tour by walking back downstairs and out to the courtyard to stand in awe beneath the tree that captivated my interest on my very first visit here. My first visit to this space was for a social event, so I was far too distracted by wine and mingling to pay much attention to the art, hence the reason for my return visit. I guess some things don’t change regardless of age. At least now I am old enough to realize some things are worth a second visit.
HINTS and TIPS
- Bring your wallet. Go ahead and pony up $125,ooo for the Warhol ram’s head. I dare you.
- Parking is nothing if non-existent. Be prepared to park near Backstreet Cafe.
- It’s quiet, but don’t feel compelled to use 6″ voices. Especially if you have the Gallery to yourself.
- Even more pictures on our Flickr Photostream of the Vaughan Christopher Gallery!
Where – 1217 South Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX 77019 (View Map)
What – Lithographs, Wood Presses, From Some of the Most Recognizable Artists
Wear – You’ll Have the Place to Yourself, But Dress Like You Can Buy
How Much – Free (But Not If You Fall in Love)
When – Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and By Appointment
Web – Website