Rauschenberg original display at Museum of the Gulf Coast

Published 1:30 pm Friday, June 29, 2018

An original Robert Rauschenberg piece, “Barely There,” held in private hands for more than a half-century, was displayed publicly for the first time Friday at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur.

Now owned by Tony Webber, CEO of Southwest Museum Services of Houston, the 27-by-36 inch combine painting was probably created between 1962 and 1965 while Rauschenberg lived in New York.

Webber said the painting, which incorporates objects such as film strips, reflects an art technique associated with Rauschenberg, who was born and reared in Port Arthur.

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“Barely There” was placed in the museum’s Rauschenberg Gallery late Friday morning. The gallery, which opened with the museum in 1994, includes about two dozen representations of Rauschenberg’s works, including rare prints and two original pieces.

“He was very much aware of this gallery,” said Museum director Tom Neal. “In fact, he picked out pieces to put in here.

“He knew we appreciated him and everyone likes to be appreciated in their hometown.”

Neal said Webber agreed to let the museum show the piece for 60 days. The museum expects additional heavy traffic in July and August, with many out-of-town visitors.

Neal said Webber’s company helped set up the Museum of the Gulf Coast more than two decades ago, which is how he became aware of the Rauschenberg Gallery. He said “Barely There” is being shown here first because of Webber’s affinity for the Port Arthur museum, because this is Rauschenberg’s hometown and because the museum has extraordinary security measures in place to protect the painting.