Houston’s Menil Collection set to reopen in SeptemberJune 13, 2018 | In the Press
Houston gets one of its jewels back on Sept. 22, when the Menil Collection will reopen to the public.
The world-renowned museum has been closed since late February for what director Rebecca Rabinow calls a “subtle yet substantial refreshment” of the 1987 building. Renzo Piano’s modest, graceful architecture remains unchanged but the Loblolly pine floors have been refinished to look like new again, lighting systems inside and out have been enhanced, a new fire detection system has been installed and restrooms have been updated.
Visitors will find that it’s not the same ol’ same ol’ within the galleries: all but one (the “Witnesses” room) have been redesigned with new installations of artwork from the permanent collection and promised gifts. Many of the museum’s best-known paintings and sculptures will be displayed long-term, along with recent acquisitions and other works that have never been displayed there.
Two galleries will feature more temporary, rotating shows by living artists, complemented by public programs.
Rabinow embraced the repair time as “a lifetime opportunity” for the museum’s curators to start from scratch and reimagine the familiar installations. She is thrilled with the results, which she said honor the “extraordinary legacy” of John and Dominique de Menil but also illuminate the collection’s impressive growth since its founders’ passing.
“We actively collect and reaffirm our commitment to living artists,” she said.
Among the coming highlights:
Artworks related to the de Menil’s “The Image of the Black in Western Art” initiative are installed throughout the museum. That landmark project has also inspired a new presentation of African and early modern European art that explores cultural exchanges from the 15th to 19th centuries.
A new gallery of works from the Pacific Islands will be the only display of art from that region on view in Houston.
A new room of Byzantine icons is a highlight of galleries featuring works from Medieval to Early Modern Europe (the 5th-18th centuries).
Galleries that have featured temporary shows for the last 30 years will instead highlight major works from the collection for the coming year, including 11 paintings by Fernand Léger that have been a little-known strength of the museum.
Giants of post-war contemporary art will star in one of the thematic displays.
The Surrealist galleries have been expanded to include entire rooms devoted to individual artists.
The foyer will celebrate Frank Bowling’s monumental canvas “Middle Passage,” which the de Menils acquired in 1970. It has grabbed attention on an international tour in the past year but has never previously been displayed at the Menil.
Once reopened, all of the exhibition buildings on the Menil Collection campus — including the Cy Twombly Galleries, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, Richmond Hall and the coming Menil Drawing Institute, which is to open Nov. 3 — are open to the public, free of charge, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays.