The Houston Penetrable

Title of ArtworkThe Houston Penetrable
Year of Origin2014
    lacquered aluminum structure, PVC tubes, and water-based silkscreen ink
Collaboration/Shared Production/Research
    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Medium/Type of Artwork
Light Source
Light-Optical Factors
History of a work

Jesús Rafael Soto’s signature Penetrables series is one of the great marvels of contemporary art. The Houston Penetrable—the Venezuelan artist’s final, and most ambitious work—is the only one Soto (1923–2005) designed as permanent or semipermanent, and one of the few he created as an indoor piece.

A vast, floating sea of plastic strands suspended from the ceiling, the Houston Penetrable is completed only by the viewer’s participation. Intended to be touched, handled, and waded through, the strands compose a floating yellow orb on a transparent background. The 24,000 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) tubes, individually hand-painted and tied, hang two stories high from the ceiling to the floor in the Museum's Cullinan Hall.

This immersive, kinetic environment was designed by Soto on commission from the Museum in 2004 and has taken almost a decade to produce. Architect Paolo Carrozzino and producer Walter Pellevoisin—in tandem with the Museum and Atelier Soto, Paris—oversaw a team of artisans and ironworkers in France and Houston to bring this monumental work to life. (04. 06. 2020)

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