PATRON Magazine's 2021-2022 Performing Arts Issue | December–January

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Kirk Hopper is authentically immersed in the visual arts through his own gallery and collecting. INTERVIEW BY CHRIS BYRNE PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT NEWTON


ike many gallerists, Kirk Hopper went to art school, began collecting, and by way of a circuitous route, at last opened an art gallery. His interest in American Modernists informed his own collection and contemporary art gallery on North Riverfront Boulevard, augmenting a roster of mid-career artists. The gallery is also appreciated for its scholarship, with an online journal called Passages that shares opinions within the art community. Chris Byrne met with the behind-the-scenes gallerist here. Chris Byrne (CB): When did you begin collecting? Kirk Hopper (KH): Just like a lot of gallery owners, I went to art school and enjoyed associating with like-minded people. My mother was a weekend artist, so there were art supplies around the house that I could dabble with. I grew up, got married, and worked 60 hours a week, with no time for art. I started a roofing company. I liked working mostly with my hands, up high where I didn’t have to deal with anyone. After decades of working, I had disposable income. I would take long weekends off and travel to galleries and museums.

I was drawn to American Modernists such as Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley but couldn’t afford their work. My first purchases were a couple of oil sketches by the Dallas artist Olin (Herman) Travis, from whom I took lessons from in my teens. My first notable purchase was a Big Bend painting by Alexandre Hogue. I also collected other early Texas art. When I could afford it, I bought the American Modernists. I got to know Houston artist Bert Long through collecting, and he encouraged me to open a gallery—art and artists have enriched my life. CB: Can you tell us about the paintings we viewed in your home? KH: Each of those artists I have collected and sold over the years. Arthur Dove’s Swamp (1935) I bought from a galley in New York 30plus years ago. It’s double sided. The reverse has a somewhat realist scene. I bought Marsden Hartley’s Fish In The Sky (1938) from an auction house after it went unsold. I love its simpleness. Finally, a catalogue raisonné should be out soon with all of Hartley’s’ works. I bought Forrest Bess’ Tree of Light (1953) from an architect in Houston who knew Bess. He told me Bess inspired him to become an

Arthur Dove, Swamp, 1935, oil on canvas. Kirk Hopper at his Oak Cliff home.