a new gallery with a historic past
art by the legendary David Adickes
A little history: In the early 1950s, there were no art galleries, per se, in Houston. Maybe one, on South Shepherd near Richmond. The Bute Paint company had a major paint/ wallpaper store downtown near McKinney at Caroline. In the back was a room showing prints from Chicago of Chinoiserie subjects, the fad at the time.
Young Ben DuBose, a student at University of Houston, answered a want ad by Bute’s asking for someone to manage the sale of the prints to close out that department. Ben suggested that rather than close the print department, they should open a “real” gallery with original art. It worked!
About that same time, spring of 1951, David Adickes, recently returned from two years in France studying art with F. Leger, had a booth at a show arranged by the Houston Art League and showed his works. That show was in the parking garage of the new Shamrock Hotel! There, he met Ben DuBose, who proposed a one-man show at the new gallery at the downtown Bute store. It was a success! The first painting sold was to Jane Blaffer Owen. The second was to John De Menil, which was 40” x 40”, price $100.
A year or so later, the James Bute company began expanding, opening a larger facility on West Gray. There were three spaces: the paint/wallpaper on the right, the gallery in the middle, and a frame shop on the left. Business boomed!
Having no interest in the paint/wallpaper or frame shop part of the business, Ben, with the persuasion of others, decided to leave Bute and open his own gallery. A great location was found on Kirby, corner of Steel Street, near West Alabama (today, a vacant lot). Ben opened the new gallery in the late 60s: the DuBose Gallery.
In the meantime, several other serious galleries opened: Meredith Long on San Felipe, three in Montrose, and a small handful of others. Now, as we all know, there are several dozen legitimate galleries in various parts of town: Colquitt Street, Montrose, Galleria, etc. As phenomenal Houston grew, so did the art scene. In 1995, Adickes bought 6.25 acres of industrial land at 2500 Summer Street. It was in the shadow of downtown and consisted of three deserted buildings and three vacant acres, which are now the Target center. His aim was to find a location with plenty of room to produce a series of large sculptures, the President’s Heads and the 36-foot-tall Beatles. As the sculptures began appearing in front, tourists started arriving daily on a “see Houston” tour bus. Washington Avenue began changing from “used car alley” to fine restaurants and wine bars.
The art, as an icon, redefined the area. About 2005, Jon Deal and associates bought an empty building, a former furniture factory, which is now Winter Street Studios. Then another empty former furniture factory, which is now Spring Street Studios. Next, a former Budweiser beer facility, which is now Silver Street. His group recently purchased the Silos, formerly Mahatma Rice which has been transformed to more art studios and several commercial spaces, and one of those is now DuBose Gallery.
Adickes chose to call it DuBose Gallery in honor of Ben, who passed away 43 years ago, and to continue his legacy of showing paintings by many artists that will be valued by our grandkids and their grandkids. Ars Longa.