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Cooperate -- or Die?

Houston's major art museums map a road to partnership, and worry about survival

Times have changed in Houston and we seem to be smack in the middle of yet another phase of maturation. Still, by taking less risks and by becoming more cooperative, do the institutions place more pressure on artists, alternative spaces and free-thinking galleries to distinguish themselves? Do we need to be reminded that artists have always worked against a unified institutional front? In their bid to reach out to a larger community, will the museums become increasingly wary of the art of the moment?

An art scene is a complex ecology. Artists and their work stand at its center, around which revolves a system of collectors, dealers, museums, foundations, critics and audiences. But the art itself, which can help us cope, can also help us understand one another.

At issue, then, is the tentative and contentious way in which serious visual art always grips and moves the world. Keeping a proper perspective on the whole affair, of course, means training your eye squarely on the old artball. At the same time, however, you just might witness the closing of one chapter in Houston's art community and the opening of another.

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