Our 100th 100 Creatives 2012: Gary Tinterow, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Categories: 100 Creatives

Gary Formal 560 .jpg
Photo Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Gary Tinterow

Houston might be his hometown, but that doesn't mean that Gary Tinterow, the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, doesn't get turned around every once in a while. Tinterow left Houston in 1972 to attend first Brandeis University and then Harvard and Columbia University. He went on to work in Jerusalem and London before settling in New York, where he joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1983. Houston, circa 1972 and Houston, circa 2012 are very different animals and Tinterow admits he finds the terrain a little confusing from time to time. "I'm still looking for the Bank of the Southwest and Texas Commerce Bank, for the Tenneco Building," he laughs. "[Coming back], it's an odd feeling of familiarity and wonderful new discovery. I've changed; Houston has changed."

And the MFAH has certainly changed. "The museum has grown tremendously, all for the better. It was an elegant and intelligent institution when I was growing up, but now it's one of the great museums of the country. When I left, we didn't have the Beck building, we didn't have the Sculpture Garden. We have so much more on display now."

Gary photo piano 560.jpg
Photo Courtesy of Musem of Fine Arts, Houston
Gary Tinterow
What he does: Tinterow was the Engelhard Chairman of the Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern and Contemporary Art at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art when he was tapped to head the MFAH after previous director Peter C. Marzio's death in late 2010. "I'm a museum directer," he says simply. He goes on, "It's not that different from what I was doing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had a very large staff there and a very big budget and was programming a big section of the museum's exhibition, so it's not very different for me in terms of my daily life. My scope is larger and my schedule is much more dense, but the actual range of activities are very similar."

Why he likes it: "It's very exciting working on projects, whether that project is arranging for food trucks to be in our parking lot and getting electricity to them, or initiating exchanges with foreign countries, like the Kuwaiti exchange that's about to occur; it's just marvelous to initiate projects and see them come to fruition. I love all of the different parts of my job. There's almost no downside...well, not being able to answer all of my e-mails is the downside."

What inspires him: "It's difficult to explain. I love working in museums and I can't imagine any other life. Since I was 20 I've been living in a museum, it's really the only life I know now. I love the people who inhabit this world, curators, collectors, philanthropists. I enjoy interacting with the public who come to the museum to learn and to wonder, to awe. I find all of that very inspiring."

If not this, then what: Except for being flooded with e-mail, Tinterow tells us he enjoys every aspect of his job; still, there's one other gig he says he would enjoy. "Probably my unfulfilled ambition would be to be a classical musician. I do play, but just for myself. I would love to have the time to devote to really improve. I regret that I don't have the talent that my brother [Houston musician Chaya Tinterow] has. I'm not a natural-born musician, but I love it and I wish I could play better."

If not here, then where: "I'm so happy right now in Houston that I really can't imagine being happier anywhere else. Frankly, and I don't mean this just to be obsequious, but all of my friends from New York say that they have never seen me happier. So I'd just like to stay here, please, for now."

What's next: There's plenty on his plate already. "We have [a] Picasso [exhibit] opening up in February; we have the [James] Turrell exhibition opening up later in the spring." There are more exhibits and programs in the works, but he declines to discuss them because "they aren't cooked quite yet."

As for a little further down the road, Tinterow has very ambitious plans for the museum. "I hope we have a marvelous new building for modern and contemporary art. I fully expect that in ten years we will. Then the whole world will be able to see our extraordinary collection of European, American and Latin American 20th and 21st century art. We'll get much more of our phenomenal photography collection on view. And I hope that we're able to create a new and rich way in which to display the art of our time...in a way that's meaningful and accessible to our public."

More Creatives for 2012
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Raúl Orlando Edwards, opera singer and salsa dancer
Jeremy P. Kelley, kids' pop artist
Bear Wilder, Filmmaker, Jewelry Artist, DJ, VJ
Antoine Plante, conductor
Chuy Benitez, photographer and arts organizer
Robin Kachantones, illustrator
Libbie J. Masterson, artist, curator and creator
Leighza Walker, theater owner, actress, writer, theatrical everywoman
Macy Perrone, costume designer
Elsa Briggs, Painter, jewelry maker
Baldemar Rodriguez, film director/producer and actor
Linarejos Moreno, photographer

Heather Rainwater, artist, jewelry maker
Detria Ward, actress and entrepreneur
Justin Cronin, book author
Mark Ivy, actor
Lauren Luna, painter and shoe designer

Sarah Cortez, writer

Kent Dorn, drawer, painter, artist
Lillian Warren, painter
Carl Lindahl, folklorist, UH professor
Sutapa Ghosh, film producer and Indian Film Festival of Houston organizer
Tom Stell, actor, writer, director
Gregory Oaks, teacher and Poison Pen co-founder

Oliver Halkowich, dancer and performer
Lupe Mendez, poet and poem pusher

Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director
Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician

Matthew Detrick, classical musician
Travis Ammons, filmmaker
Florence Garvey, actress
Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker

Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder

Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist
Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist
JoDee Engle, dancer
David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher
Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor
Jessica Janes, actress and musician
Dennis Draper, actor and director

Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter
Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist

Adriana Soto, jewelry designer
Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist
Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof
Patrick Turk, visual artist
Elizabeth Keel, playwright
Bob Martin, designer
Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer
Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer
Jeremy Wells, painter
George Brock, theater teacher
Radu Runcanu, painter
Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media
Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker
Philip Hayes, actor

Patrick Palmer, painter
Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer
John Tyson, actor
Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker
Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer
Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music
Laura Burlton, photographer
David Peck, fashion designer
Rebecca Udden, theater director
Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer
Paul Fredric, author
John Sparagana, photographer
Damon Smith, musician and visual artist
Geoff Winningham, photographer

Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist
Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor

Katya Horner, photographer
Johnathan Felton, artist
Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer

Carol Simmons, hair stylist
Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet
Greg Carter, director
Kenn McLaughlin, theater director
Justin Whitney, musician
Antone Pham, tattoo artist
Susie Silbert, crafts

Lauralee Capelo, hair designer
Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer
Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ
ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer
Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director
J.J. Johnston, theater director
Mary Margaret Hansen, artist
Richard Tallent, photographer
Viswa Subbaraman, opera director
Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist
Sonja Roesch, gallery owner
Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor
Sandy Ewen, musician
Camella Clements, puppeteer

Wade Wilson, gallery owner

Magid Salmi, photographer
Carl Williams, playwright



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