William Steen, artist, collector, curator, and mystic, died of pancreatic cancer on December 20 in New York, where he has lived since 2001. Long time framer at the Menil Collection, the soft-spoken Steen is remembered in Houston where he had his first exhibition of paintings in 1978 at the Roberto Molina Gallery. In 1984 Steen made his first of several trips to India, photographing thousands of Tibetan Buddhist ritual paintings. A champion of outsider art, in 2000 he tangled with the Houston Police over the grafitti mural he comissioned for the walls of the reclaimed Sterling Cleaners building, his home/studio in Houston’s East End. A memorial service will be held at the Rothko chapel at 5 p.m. on Sunday, January 25.
William Steen helped me get my first show. I was working the counter at a photo lab when he asked to see my own photos. I was a little surprised, but the following Saturday he visited our apartment and patiently looked at every photo I had taken since High School. He bought 3 prints of my latest series, and within a week he had referred me to 2 different galleries. I think I was 23. I lost track of him after he moved to New York, but I am shocked by the news of his death- you tend to think someone that serene and open will never die. He is misssed.