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(Update) MFAH Director Peter Marzio Dead

Update 3:43pm: MFAH acting director Gwen Goffe offered her thoughts.

Her comments after the jump.

Update 1:17pm: Bill Arning, director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, shared with us his thoughts on Marzio's passing.

His comments after the jump.

We are stunned after the news of Museum of Fine Arts director Peter Marzio's death this morning.

He had been extremely private about his battle with cancer. He was 67.

Marzio was an internationally-known art figure, having helmed the MFAH for 28 years. His most recent act as director, the commission of Cai Guo-Qiang's gunpowder drawing Odyssey for the museum's Arts of China Gallery, caused a sensation here in Houston and abroad.

Marzio was the subject of a 1997 Houston Press feature detailing the advances he'd made for the MFAH. Art Attack last spoke to him in September about a rash of art thefts in Europe.

Marzio was also the subject of some controversy when Newsweek reported that he was the sixth-highest paid charity CEO in the United States.

But Marzio's career achievement was turning the MFAH into an internationally-recognized fine arts destination.

This is shocking news. Marzio will be sorely missed.

We'll be back to update during the day.

Gwen Goffe, acting director, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston:

"It's very depressing. We're all mourning the loss."

"Peter was a very private person. Whether [his illness] had turned or not, he tried to hide it, so people were not really aware. He'd done well for a considerable time."

"The role that he really cherished was being an educator and a person who brought diverse communities together through art. There's a lot of statistics you can point to in terms of the collection--from 13,000 works of art to 62,000; attendance was 380,000, and it went to over 2,000,000. We built the Beck Building, the Cullen Sculpture Garden, the Kilroy Center."

"Peter loved Houston and loved this institution."

"You would hear him talking to somebody on the telephone, and you would hear this loud, boisterous laugh. He really, truly enjoyed every minute of what he did. That's not something everybody can say."

Goffe said the museum wouldn't be acting hastily to fill Marzio's position, but that eventually there will be a search for a new director. "Someone like Peter Marzio," she said.

CAMH director Bill Arning:

"His fame was well beyond Houston. He was very generous with his time and advice about the particularities of Houston as a city and how things worked. He spoke with such a quiet authority, and he was so brilliant in terms of understanding how museums need to function and the relationship between trustees and public, because the director's really the crux, the intersection point, and he could do that with incredible grace, ease and brilliance."

"One of the marks of a great director is to build an institution that is strong enough that it can survive either your retirement or your passing, and I think he's spent the last decade building a museum that is very strong and has a very strong support system and structure behind it. It was very important to him that he build a museum that can thrive after he's gone, and I think he has done that."

"I don't know if anyone's going to be able to comfortably sit in that seat, because he's so publicly identified with that museum. I live and work in the neighborhood, and when I'm walking over to Hermann Park, and I go past the wall where Peter's office is, I get a sense of his presence. It's going to be hard to find anyone as dynamic as Peter, but he's built a museum that's going to be there forever, and his contributions and that legacy is a monument to him."

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