Saved From The Scrap Heap, Sculptures Are Headed Here

Houston is getting some new art that could have been headed for the melting vat.

Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors is permanently installing several works by George Sugarman in buildings around town. The company recently acquired around 50 large-scale, colorful aluminum sculptures by Sugarman, which had been installed in a corporate complex in St. Paul that had gone into foreclosure.

“At first I was told there were only 13 different works of art, but when it was all done we found that there were more like 50 pieces,” says Ross Crowe, VP of Asset Management at of Grubb & Ellis, who describes himself as an “art fanatic.”

The works were on display together as one installation and had fallen into major disrepair. “It had been up since 1971, and imagine…basically it became a trail for pigeons and was pretty much destroyed from all the acidity in the bird debris and had kind of become an eyesore. But I saw this as an incredible opportunity to restore it.”

Crowe tells Hair Balls his company acquired the works for a “very reasonable” price

“These works in particular are 100 percent solid aluminum,” he says, “and when people are developing buildings or tearing down buildings, they look at these things for metal value these days, and one of the options was to melt them down, and I thought, well, that’s a bad thing.”

The more expensive part of this project, according to Crowe, has been the restoration and installation.

Works by Sugarman, who died in 1999, are held by the MoMA, the Whitney and the Met, among others. There’s also a series at the Blanton Museum at UT. In his obituary, The New York Times wrote that Sugarman’s “animated, meandering polychrome sculptures are among the most inventive if least appreciated three-dimensional artworks of the early 1960's.”

Grubb & Ellis has offered to donate some of the sculptures to museums, and the plan is to install more in Houston and Austin. Locations here include 602 Sawyer near downtown (see the architect’s rendering in photo) and Waterways One and Two in the Woodlands.

Cathy Matusow

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