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by C. Jeanette Tyson

I missed most of the brouhaha over the architects selected, and de-selected, to design the new Blanton Museum. My opinion would probably have been that a museum striving for world-class status should be a work of inspiration in and of itself, but my opinion would not have mattered, like half the town’s, one whit. Anyway, approaching the square limestone box with the red-tiled roof for the grand opening, the good thing was that I had no grudge to bear, no expectations. My entire focus up to that point had been on what I would wear (a red dress whose luck needed to change, another story in itself).

This lack of engagement came to a screeching halt the minute my
friends and I streamed, tight on the heels of the extremely well-heeled,
into the building. The entry hall is wide and cool and flooded with soft
light. A steep and generous staircase ascends to the mezzanine, beyond
which are galleries. The expanse, and the time it takes to cross it,
frees some psychic space; you have time to breathe and then to
anticipate. You step into the Blanton and feel you are in the presence
of greatness, exactly as you should.

The scale of greatness I will leave to the art critics although I can’t
imagine, in the 17,000 pieces there, that there is not something that
will move you. Any disappointment I personally felt with the European
collection is just that of the person who got to the barbecue
late—you’ve got to go in knowing the prime parts have been taken
already. Still, there is much to be savored if you have a taste for the
sublime. I loved the contemporary collection and the work from Central
and South America. Much has been said of Cildo Meireles’ conceptual
installation involving 600,000 coins, 800 communion wafers, 2,000
cattle bones, 80 paving stones and yards of black cloth. Called “How to
Build Cathedrals”, it’s a commentary on the economic underpinnings of
the historic development of the America’s. Certain parallels could be
drawn, if one wished.

Another piece involved a very small man moving very large piles of
mulch from one spot to another. Certain other parallels could be drawn,
at least one of them involving crayons, baseballs, ballet shoes and
plastic ponies.

Although intrigued by the idea of a 24-hour art party, and by the idea
of dancing the tango at dawn, we tore ourselves away and ventured to
the other side of town to Capital Brasserie only to be greeted by a
hostess who said she was going to The Blanton as soon as her shift
ended. Oh, to be two decades younger.

What a perfect retreat Capital Brasserie is, how very French, with the
dark wood and white tablecloths. This is the place for good, simple
food done well: roasted chicken and pomme frites, trout amandine, steak
au poivre, salmon. We began with a delicious potato and goat cheese
tart for the table. Onion soup and salads followed and the conversation
flowed as easily as the wine.

Was Lesley in London for the Picasso exhibit? We couldn’t remember that
but did remember seeing the Van Gogh’s, in that dimly-lit museum, in
Amsterdam that one weekend. I remembered the groups of children in the
Louvre—in all the European museums—who sat and drew and studied each
painting. Cheryl recalled the hours she herself spent sketching in the
Museum of Natural Science in New York.

Our entrees arrived. The conversation meandered to Steve’s time in
South America, then on to Dali, then, of course, veered off to
mustaches. From there, somehow, it was on to everyone’s memories of
Gallatoires in New Orleans, because there is always a memory from
there. You may not have been part of Tennessee Williams’ three-hour
lunch but perhaps you have a friend who stood to applaud a table full
of beautiful women and got the entire restaurant to join in.

After the crème brulee, the first bite of which propelled the
conversation out to the west coast, to other restaurants and crème
brulee’s in LA and San Francisco, I retired to the ladies’ room.

I was feeling, all in all, quite expansive and continental, not in a
fussy black beret way but just in a happy, ain’t-life-grand kind of
way. Through all the places we talked about ran threads of politics and
relationships and all the things we take with us when we go and all the
things we bring back. The official word from Jack Blanton & Company
wasn’t that he wanted people to see some fantastic art then sit around
in café’s having lively discussions about life’s drift but maybe that’s close
enough to what he meant.

I leaned against the wall, lost in reverie. A woman said "weren’t you at
The Blanton opening?"

"Yes," I answered. "Did you love the art?" I asked. "What did you like?"

"Well," she said. "I particularly enjoyed the frontier stuff, with the cowboys."
C. Jeanette Tyson has made a career of convincing people to buy things
but can’t get her five-year-old twins to pick up their rooms. You can
see her award-winning advertising work at thethinkkitchen.com.

The Blanton Museum is at 21st Street and Guadalupe (512-471-7324). Capital
Brasserie is at 310 Colorado (512-472-6770) 


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