'Shadow Monsters', an art installation by the British artist Philip Worthington showing on the mezzanine level of the Caroline Wiess Law Building, instantly warmed me to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. As the first art work you see as you enter this part of the museum, its gigantic, ever-changing, immersive nature, recreating puppet shows of old, for me reflected the innovative, forward-thinking ethos of the museum, bringing together the new with the old in continuing artistic endeavour.
This humorous art work comprises huge light boxes which project your shadow on to enormous wall screens, with the added twist of clever software that augments your movements by randomly adding razor-sharp teeth, tendrils, eyes on stalks and other-worldly shapes to your hands, feet and head, making you look like a monster in silhouette.
The idea of blending classical artworks from around the world with contemporary pieces from each country continues throughout the museum.
Among the ancient sculptures and paintings of India there is a stainless steel disc sculpture created by Subodh Gupta in 2008. Made of aluminium pots and pans, simple symbols of rural village life, it is a comment on the mobility and consumerism of a rapidly modernising India.
Chan-Hyo Bae's 2006 artwork 'Existing in Costume' at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston
The 5,000 years of visual culture represented in the Arts of Korea hall is complemented by a photograph of the artist Chan-Hyo Bae dressed as Queen Elizabeth I, taken in 2006, called 'Existing in Costume', which reflects his feeling of exclusion when he came to London to study at Slade School of Art.
Another memorable piece of contemporary art, inserted among the ancient artworks of Asia, is 'Then I decided to give a tour of Tokyo to the octopus from Akashi', a video in which the Japanese artist, Shimabukuro Michihiro, films his journey from the fishing village of Akashi to Tokyo carrying an octopus in a plastic bag of water. At the end of the film, made in 2000, he is seen releasing the animal back into the sea. The film reflects the artist's fascination with the natural world and his desire to draw attention to extraordinary things.
The Caroline Wiess Law Building houses African, Asian, Islamic and Native American art, the Hirsch Library and the Brown Auditorium Theatre as well as more modern and contemporary art. The museum's second building, the Audrey Jones Beck Building, which is connected to the first by a tunnel, focuses on European, American and ancient art as well as photography, prints and drawings. The café and shop are also located in this building.
Among the museum's vast array of ancient treasures, it is difficult to choose where to focus your attention, which is why the juxtaposition of contemporary pieces works so well I, as it encourages you to compare and contrast the ancient and the modern and wonder at the different influences that continue to shape the face of the art world today.
Houston's Museum of Fine Arts is in the city's museum district and free parking is available opposite the entrance to the Caroline Wiess Law Building. Next to the car park is the Cullen Sculpture Garden which is also worth a look round.