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In new museum wing, gift unveiled

Named after Hazel Hough, the wing holds a video sculpture dedicated to her husband.

By Lennie Bennett, Times Staff Writer
Published February 24, 2008


Crowds pack the new section of the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday. About 1,200 guests turned out at a gala organized by the museum's Stuart Society to celebrate completion of the $21.2-million Hazel Hough Wing.
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[Edmund D. Fountain | Times]
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[Edmund D. Fountain | Times]
Anne Bladstrom, 77, and her husband, Walter, 75, of Sarasota examine Extruded Video Engine #2, a video sculpture by Peter Sarkisian purchased in honor of Bill Hough, whose donation put his wife's name on the new wing.

ST. PETERSBURG - Almost three years ago, Bill Hough gave a surprise to his wife, Hazel: a major donation to the Museum of Fine Arts that would put her name on a new wing.

Saturday, Hazel Hough returned the favor with a major work of art in his honor, unveiled at a gala organized by the museum's Stuart Society to celebrate completion of the $21.2-million Hazel Hough Wing.

Rain threatened to wash out the party, but it stopped before about 1,200 patrons arrived to trumpet fanfares, giant spotlights and a red carpet.

Once everyone stepped inside the 30-foot-high conservatory, director John Schloder and Mrs. Hough led her husband of 56 years to a small alcove where Extruded Video Engine #2, a video sculpture by Peter Sarkisian, has been temporarily installed with a wall label acknowledging the gift.

It's a circular form of molded plastic measuring about 40 inches in diameter with an internal system that projects colorful, moving machine parts and a narrative that snakes like ticker tape through the quirky elements, a kinetic illusion. The work is serious and enchanting, a Willy Wonka confection with more than meringue at its heart.

The work is an important acquisition as the museum's first video art. And it's an unconventional example of that medium by an artist who is making a national reputation with his blend of video message in unique conceptual packages. Extruded Video is easy to love whether you're an auteur or a kid.

Mrs. Hough saw the work on a visit with other collectors to the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in Miami, one of the most respected in the Southeastern United States, specializing in contemporary art.

The value of Extruded Video Engine was not made public, but Sarkisian's recent art has brought between $18,000 for a work from a limited edition series to $250,000 for a one-of-a-kind creation. This work is in the latter category, said Steinbaum.

"I liked it because it reminded me of Bill," Mrs. Hough said.

The museum is situated between Beach and Bayshore drives on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront.

The expansion doubles its square footage and includes 7,000 square feet of new gallery space for special exhibitions.

The wing won't open to the public until March 22, when the museum hosts a free-admission weekend and an exhibition of rarely seen works from its permanent collection.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at lennie@sptimes.com or 727 893-8293.

[Last modified February 23, 2008, 23:21:09]


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