A Great Museum Weekend In Houston

Courtesy of Museum Fine Arts, Houston

TOUR OF DUTY With two must-see blockbuster touring shows and several one-artist exhibitions in Houston this month, going museum-hopping could prove as tiring as barhopping. Rather than tackle at the outset the dauntingly huge three-hundred-plus-piece "Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes" show at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, may we suggest that you pace yourself. Begin with the intensely personal artwork of rocker-poet-artist Patti Smith at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Her spare yet strangely passionate drawings deserve a fresh eye. Next you'll want to visit the Menil Collection to savor the subtleties of minimalist sculptor Donald Judd's early work ( See "The Minimalist" ). Only then should you approach the pièce de résistance "Paris in the Age of Impressionism: Masterworks From the Musée d'Orsay" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The exhibit's giddying array of 120 paintings, sculpture, objets, drawings, and photographs by the likes of Pissarro, Caillebotte, Monet, Rodin, Degas, Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Bonnard, Loppé, and Derain will more than satisfy. Leave a whole day for the HMNS's show on Saint Peter and his successors as a pleasant penance for (and soul-satisfying tribute to) artistic overindulgence. ( See Houston: Museums/Galleries .)

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