Art • Peter Marzio

His populist approach has revitalized one of Houston’s biggest museums.

PETER MARZIO, THE HANDSOME, well-spoken 54-year-old director of Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, has a reputationbut it has nothing to do with his private life. First, he is generally conceded to be the most stunningly successful fundraiser the museum has ever had. Second, he is looked upon as an intuitive social animal, a man who was born knowing how to work a ballroom as easily as a boardroom. Third, he is considered a bit of a clotheshorse.

Each element forms part of Marzio’s distinctive and effective public persona, but the truth of the matter is a little different. Yes, Marzio dresses well because it’s expected of someone in his position, but he is actually rather oblivious to clothes. (On a recent morning he was observed wearing a new suit with one jacket pocket still stitched shut.) By the same token, although he and his wife, Frances (who is the assistant to the chairman of the museum’s board and recently curated the record-breaking “Splendors of Ancient Egypt” exhibit), are regulars on the glitzy dinner-party and cultural-event circuit, Marzio confesses with just a shade of wistfulness, “I’m really a hermit.” The one part of the picture that is indisputably true

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