The first works purchased for the collection were Orbit I and Orbit II by Japanese-born Masaru Takiguchi, who was a guest artist teaching in the Art Department for the 1969-70 year. Orbit I was installed in the lobby of the Science & Research Building and Orbit II in Krost Hall of the Bates School of Law. The large-scale bronze Albertus Magnus by the German Expressionist artist Gerhard Marcks was the first work purchased for outdoor placement, located at the entrance to the Law Center complex.
In 1996 the University made one of its most ambitious commissions, authorizing an artwork for the Moores School of Music Opera House by internationally known New York-based artist Frank Stella. The artist created Euphonia , an exuberant celebration of color and rhythm that transformed the barrel vault ceiling of the lobby, the wall of the mezzanine, and the catwalk in the auditorium. UH-Downtown commissioned a 27-foot mural titled Salt Marsh by the late John Biggers for its Academic Building in 1997. Jim Sanborn, Washington D.C.; Jackie Ferrara, New York; Alyson Shotz, Brooklyn; and, in a collaborative effort, Liz Ward, Rob Ziebell, and Anthony Thompson Shumate of Houston are some of the more recent artists to complete commissioned work.
With the help of the University’s System Wide Art Acquisition Committee, composed of local museum curators, museum directors, and community representatives, the collection continues to expand with the work of local, regional, national, and international artists. Today, forty years later, the collection numbers more than 350 works, located not only on the main campus, but on the Clear Lake, Downtown, Victoria and Sugar Land campuses as well.
Image: Luis Jimenez, Fiesta Jarabe, 1991-93. Painted fiberglass. University of Houston Public Art Collection. Location: corner of Wheeler and Cullen