The collection of decorative arts, craft, and design focuses on works of extraordinary craftsmanship and originality made from the 17th century to the 21st. The diversity of design is shown through both handcrafted and industrially produced objects. The department collects all the major design movements—19th-century Revivalist, Aesthetic, Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, the Bauhaus, Scandinavian Modern, studio craft, Postmodernism—and continues with objects made just yesterday. The collection is particularly known for late-19th-century American works by the Herter Brothers and Louis Comfort Tiffany as well as objects designed by architects.


Collecting Areas

In 1997, the decorative arts department began focusing its efforts on objects made after 1900. This move included a new emphasis on craft and design, and the MFAH is now considered one of the leading American collecting institutions in these fields. The works of modern and contemporary decorative arts are international in scope and include furniture, tableware, jewelry, and objects made from wood, ceramics, glass, metal, textiles/fiber, plastics, and other materials. Of particular note are the studio-craft holdings exemplified by the Helen Williams Drutt Collection of jewelry and the Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio Collection of ceramics.

Special Collections

The Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio Collection

Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio assembled one of the most important collections of Modern and contemporary ceramics in the world. Functional vessels, abstract and sculptural forms, and narrative works broaden traditional ideas about ceramics as an art form. Works by European and American artists form the core of the holdings, with Asian, African, and Latin American artists also represented. Nearly 500 objects explore a range of aesthetics by a roster that includes artists Sir Anthony Caro, Laszlo Fekete, Lucio Fontana, Anne Kraus, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Beatrice Wood.

The Helen Williams Drutt Collection

This renowned collection of Modern and contemporary jewelry is recognized throughout the world for its depth and quality. Helen Williams Drutt assembled objects by a truly international group of 175 artists from 18 countries. The heart of the collection consists of American, Dutch, and German objects, augmented by significant holdings of Australian, Austrian, British, Czech, Japanese, and Scandinavian works. Gijs Bakker, Peter Chang, Georg Dobler, Stanley Lechtzin, Wendy Ramshaw, and Olaf Skoogfors are just a few of the artists represented.

Exhibitions

For information about past MFAH exhibitions, search the exhibitions archive database.

Publications

  • Crafting a Collection: Contemporary Craft in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
  • Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection
  • Shifting Paradigms in Contemporary Ceramics: The Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio Collection
  • Silver: An American Art, The Milo M. Naeve Collection of American Silver at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Patron Group

Design Council
If you have an interest in 20th- and 21st-century design, architecture, and craft, join the Design Council. This group supports the Museum’s growing collection of decorative arts and design. Members meet bimonthly, September through May, for lectures, visits to private collections, and behind-the-scenes exhibition tours. The season culminates with members voting on works of art to acquire for the Museum.
Join Design Council

Special Programs

HADA Annual Lecture
The Houston Antiques Dealers Association (HADA) Annual Lecture, established in 1982, is the oldest endowed lecture at the Museum. Distinguished scholars—including speakers from institutions such as the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and Victoria and Albert Museum—share their knowledge and expertise about the decorative arts.

The MFAH Collections

To explore all of the Museum’s works of art, search the collection.