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Peter Marzio, 67, Director of Houston MFA, Dies UPDATED and CORRECTED

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[CORRECTION: Mary Haus, director of marketing and communications at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, called me on Dec. 16, asking me to correct this post to reflect the fact that Peter Marzio had died of cancer, but he did not have prostate cancer, as an early version of the Houston Chronicle obit had stated. The family, Haus said, is “not disclosing what he had.”]

The Houston community and the American artworld were shocked today by the unexpected announcement that Peter Marzio, director of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, died last night at age 67. The cause of death was not announced, but he had prostate cancer, according to the obit in the Houston Chronicle. [See above correction.] He is survived by his wife, Frances Marzio, a curator at the museum.

[UPDATE: The museum’s announcement, linked to in the above paragraph, has been greatly expanded into a full-fledged bio and appreciation since I posted this earlier today.]

At his death, Marzio was one of the longest-serving directors of an American art museum, having begun his stint at Houston (where he arrived from Washington’s Corcoran Gallery) in 1982.  He was skilled in attracting major support from Houston’s moneyed moguls, and relied more than most museum directors on a steady diet of single-lender blockbusters (sometimes incurring hefty rental fees to obtain them).

Marzio personally provided partial funding (scroll down) for his museum’s current exhibition of works loaned by the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and MonumentsDynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria (to Jan. 9). Houston’s next upcoming high-profile loan show will be French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, opening Feb. 20.

In CultureMap Houston, Clifford Pugh and Steven Thomson report:

Many in Houston’s art and business communities were stunned to hear of
his death, because he had kept his illness extremely private.

A memorial is being planned “to celebrate Dr. Marzio’s 28 years at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,” according to the museum’s brief announcement (linked at the top of this post). A fuller tribute will likely appear soon on its website.

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