What Rivalry? Houston and Dallas Museums Team Up to Purchase Art Work

This is news that will disappoint that new city mag in our city’s neighbor down south: The Dallas Museum of Art and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts have made their first joint purchase of an artwork. The piece is a film by British artist Simon Starling called Black Drop (2012), a film which explores the influence of the mechanics of exploration and expression on the results and discoveries of scientific and artistic activities:

Black Drop connects the history of cinema with the astronomical phenomenon of the transit of Venus across the Sun and the human need to measure one’s place in the cosmos. . . . At first, Black Drop appears to be a straightforward documentary about the transit of Venus and attempts in the 19th century to measure accurately the planet’s passage across the Sun. At the same time, Black Drop reflects on the filmmaker’s process, as the narrative opens with, and frequently returns to, sequences of an offscreen figure spooling 35mm footage through an editing table.

The purchase makes sense for both museums. The DMA already has Starling’s sculpture Venus Mirror (2011), and the MFAH owns a similar work, Transit Stones (2012). The MFAH has also been working with Spring, TX’s Pearl Fincher Museum of Art to organize an exhibition focusing on Starling’s work and astrological photography, which opens in May 2014. The new acquisition will make its Texas debut during that exhibition.

No word yet when the film will have its North Texas debut. For now, though, the news is the DMA’s evolving approach to its collection. Whether it is putting together pledges to purchases a major art work, forging partnerships with foreign countries to create greater loan flexibility, and now partnering with other museums in Texas to make purchases, the DMA has shown an interest in recent years in changing the traditional approach towards expanding the collection and a willingness to leverage partnerships as a way of expanding its reach.