Best Cities to See Art: Houston’s Montrose Neighborhood

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and in the case of Houston, it’s actually true. Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country, with a robust arts and culture scene of equal measure. Houston tends to maintain a strong economy, is the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the country, and the home to more than 500 institutions whose missions are focused on the arts. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that GQ Magazine named it the “New Capital of Southern Cool” in 2018. The food scene is also nothing to turn your nose up at, which is just one more reason why Houston is a no-brainer on our list of places to see art (and experience great local dining).

With a day excursion in mind, we’re breaking down a visit to one of the most charming little enclaves in the country for museum and gallery hopping in the Houston area. We love a boho artistic vibe, and Montrose has it in spades. With its delightful bungalows, eclectic boutiques, and its status as the historic core of Houston’s LGBTQ+ community, Montrose might make you think you have been transported to Austin, Houston’s hipper younger brother. Despite the similarities, Montrose, with its quirky vibe and unique food and cultural offerings, is its own kind of cool. Extremely walkable, Montrose offers a great variety of museums, galleries, and culinary opportunities.



Within the Museum District of the Montrose neighborhood, you will find a handful of museums that are in relatively close proximity to one another. In addition to incredible art, among them, you will find opportunities for meditative enlightenment and spiritual awakening. We’re starting with one that is more like a church than a museum, but not quite either.

Rothko Chapel

Part art gallery, part non-denominational gathering space, the recently renovated Rothko Chapel opened its doors in 1971 and features two exceptional art exhibits. The first is the abstract color field paintings of its namesake, renowned 20th-century artist Mark Rothko. An interior room within the chapel grounds serves as the home to his 14 massive paintings. Their monochromatic foundation in dark hues of purples and blacks reflects Rothko’s desire to express a universal language in his artwork that transcends any singular belief or philosophy.Photo by Aleksandr Zykov

Adding to the Chapel’s appeal, it counts among its notable artistic inventory the work of another world-class abstract expressionist in Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk.” In all that Rothko Chapel embodies is the underlying theme of human rights, as exemplified with “Broken Obelisk,” a Cor-Ten steel sculpture located outside the chapel, flanked by water on all sides, with the inverted obelisk appearing as though balanced upon the base within the water. The piece was acquired as a dedication to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and symbolizes his outward pursuit of social justice in complement to his inner spiritual conviction.

3900 Yupon St, Houston, TX

The Menil Collection

The Menil Collection’s mission is to make art accessible to everyone, and so its multiple spaces are all free to the public. Also reflecting a higher purpose, Menil’s founders, John and Dominique de Menil were civil rights and human rights activists. They were interested in Byzantine icons for which the Museum includes a collection deemed by many as one of the most significant in the United States. The museum’s grounds include a Byzantine Fresco Chapel, which for a time was home to frescoes stolen from a church in Cyprus. Menil assisted in their restoration and recovery and the art has since been returned to its rightful home at the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.Photo by Joe Wolf

Other locations within Menil’s campus include the Menil Drawing Institute, Richmond Hall and Cy Twombly Gallery, a single artist installation housed in the gallery bearing his name. The Twombly Gallery features works covering a time period of his career from 1953 to 2004, reflecting Twombly’s interest in a range of artistic styles from austere abstracts to landscape photography to floral formations in bright hues of reds and pinks. The gallery features many of Twombly’s paintings, sculptures, and other large scale pieces.

1533 Sul Ross St, Houston, TX


The Museum of Fine Arts

Although technically a bit south of the Montrose neighborhood, the Museum of Fine Arts is a little over a mile from the Menil and ranks as must-see among an impressive array of cultural options. The Houston Museum of Fine Arts has an extensive collection of Asian, Latin American and Latino art as well as Islamic art, covering an approximate 6,000 year time period.

Among its most interesting treasures on display are several pieces by Spanish cubist and surrealist artist Pablo Picasso, including “Deux femmes devant une fenêtre” (Two Women in Front of a Window). The painting is said to portray and contrast two women in Picasso’s life at the time. The more rigid visual of a woman on the left is reported to depict his wife and a more soft and feminine portrayal of a woman to the right was apparently his lover. The painting can be viewed in the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building/Gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts.

1001 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX


As part of your Montrose art immersion, we’ve also identified some great gallery spaces which are within a short distance of the museums. Many are focused on local Houston artists, but you can also find a diversity of genres representing Latin American and other international artists.

Archway Gallery

Archway Gallery has been in operation in various locations since 1976 and was founded by and on behalf of local Houston artists. In its current space in Montrose, it has almost 30 artist members whose work shows the best of Houston in the realms of ceramics, textiles, sculpture, painting, photography, and jewelry making.

Among our favorites from the gallery are works by artist Joe Haden, who makes use of steel, trash and everyday items to create intriguing art pieces. He refers to his style as Dadaism, in that he repurposes objects to create things of beauty.“Twisted Climb” by Joe Haden, Archway Gallery

According to the Gallery, Haden juxtaposes organic and non-organic shapes, marrying their superficial differences. Haden’s work and dozens of other talented Houston artists are on view in the gallery which features a series of changing exhibitions.

2305 Dunlavy St, Houston, TX

Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino Gallery

We find the Latin American artists represented by Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino Gallery to be a collectively intriguing mix of avant-garde and contemporary work. Housed in a modern minimalist space nearby the Menil Collection, the gallery has two floors of exhibition space as well as a research center. The gallery shows a cross-section of artists from modernist masters such as Jesus Rafael Soto to internationally renowned artists including Oscar Munoz and Liliana Porter, to name a few.

1506 W Alabama St, Houston, TX


Houston is a foodie’s paradise, with an incredible array of fabulous restaurants from which to choose. As with any big city, we’re looking to identify the culinary gems that manage to stand out among the greats. With this in mind, we’re recommending a Montrose restaurant that prides itself on mirroring its community, and for which the restauranteur has made a distinguished and well-earned name for himself.

UB Preserv

Chef Chris Shepherd creates menus that reflect the ethnic diversity for which Houston is known. He crafts recipes which incorporate the various food influences he has experienced in his culinary training, including Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indian kitchens.The Salt and Pepper Squid is a favorite at UBP. Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

With these inspirational elements in mind, Shepherd opened UB Preserv, to share the culture and history of Houston and tell the story of its people, using regional ingredients. The dinner menu includes such dishes as Vietnamese short rib fajitas, wok fried ratatouille, roasted lions mane (mushrooms) and a constant variety of beautiful fish dishes. The menu refreshes frequently, consistent with the evolutionary nature of the restaurant itself.

1609 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX

We hope you find these insights helpful in planning your next trip to Houston, Texas to view art. If you prefer to peruse original works from the comfort of your home, check out UGallery’s website to discover new artworks weekly.