Franco Mondini-Ruiz was an ebullient ball of free-floating goodwill early Saturday evening as his guests mingled among mix-and-match statuary, lawn torches, and two litters of kittens. San Antonio Museum of Art Curator David Rubin chatted with New Orleans refugee John Davis under a chandelier dangling crookedly from a tree. “Have you had a sandwich?” Mondini-Ruiz inquired repeatedly, and later decreed, “Buy a painting and get a kitten for free.”

Tout le monde SA was there to see the recent Rome Prize winner off to another prestigious fellowship, this time at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, followed by shows in Rome and Florence. He’ll return to his local estate, which fellow artist Chuck Ramirez dubbed La Wes’ Side Versailles, in late November.

Franco describes his main home/gallery as Victorian meets Mexican baroque funeral parlor. I think that’s what he said — and it fits. Back outside, his team of workers have installed a bank of room-height glass display cases; they’re filled with Mondini-Ruiz’s paintings, which one might describe as Napoleon III’s Louvre apartment meets Hassam (street-scene/inclement-weather Hassam), although they’re more original than that.

“Someone needs to produce and market these,” he said of the cases. “And sell them at Home Depot.”

— Elaine Wolff



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