Houston artist Ed Wilson’s $830,000 commission to produce an artwork for the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston in time for the 2017 Superbowl has been inexplicably withdrawn by the Houston Arts Alliance in the midst of contract negotiations. “I was stunned. This is a really big deal for me,” said Wilson.
Wilson was picked to create a sculpture for the renovated GRB by the unanimous vote of a five-member selection panel appointed by HAA a few weeks ago. The panel included the project’s architect, a representative of the GRB, and three arts professionals.
Sources involved in the process say that the GRB contracted with HAA to administrate their public art process. The project was to be completed quickly, within a single year. Time being tight, it was decided to invite proposals from artists, rather than holding an open call. HAA staff created a list of approximately 30 artists, and, in consultation with the clients, whittled them down to a shortlist of seven before presenting it, along with names of art professionals for the selection committee, to the Civic Art Committee, which advises and oversees HAA. The HAA’s selection panel was artist Paul Kittelson; conservator Jill Whitten; Christine Medina, gallery manager at Rice University Art Gallery; Marie Hoke, the project’s architect; and a representative of the GRB.
The selection panel chose two artists, Christian Ekhart and Ed Wilson, to prepare more detailed proposals, and finally chose Wilson’s at the end of October. HAA began negotiating a contract with Wilson, but broke off negotiations and withdrew the commission last Thursday, November 20 via a phone call to Wilson from Matthew Lennon, HAA’s Director of Civic Art + Design, who has resigned his post. He has not responded to Glasstire’s phone calls asking for comment.
It’s unclear as yet where or why the process broke down, or who’s responsible for the about-face, but rumors abound. “I don’t know who’s responsible for whatever’s going on down there [at HAA], but it’s stinky, and it’s affecting me,” said Wilson.
UPDATE: Details of the Civic Art Committee’s big do-over revealed here.