The Menil Collection, located in Houston, Texas, United States, is a museum that houses the private art collection of founders Jean and Dominique de Ménil. Dominique was an heiress to the Schlumberger oil-drilling fortune, and Jean (a.k.a. John) was an executive of the company.
The Renzo Piano
-designed museum opened to the public in 1987
and houses the de Ménil's privately-assembled collection of the twentieth century. It is made up of approximately 15,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and rare books. The Museum's Surrealist
collection is its greatest strength. The museum's collection includes the early to mid-twentieth century works of Yves Tanguy
, René Magritte
, Max Ernst
, Man Ray
, Marcel Duchamp
, Henri Matisse
and Pablo Picasso
among others. The museum also maintains an extensive collection of pop art
and contemporary art
from such noted artists as Jackson Pollock
, Andy Warhol
, Mark Rothko
, Robert Rauschenberg
and Cy Twombly
. Also included in the museum's permanent collection are Antiquities and works of Byzantine, Medieval and Tribal art.
The museum campus has grown to include the adjacent Cy Twombly
Gallery (also designed by Piano), The Richmond Hall, which houses Mrs. de Menil's last commission (a series of three site-specific installations by Dan Flavin
installed in 1996), The Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum
and the Rothko Chapel
. The museum also has a library that is open to the public from 1pm to 3pm Wednesdays through Fridays.
The Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum
Located in a separate building a few minutes' walk from the main collection, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum houses two 13th century Byzantine church frescos, an apse semi-dome of the Virgin Panagia and a dome with Christ Pantocrator (pictures on website). These were recovered from the illegal art trade, which removed them from a church in Lysi in Turkish-occupied North Cyprus during the 1980s. According to the museum they are the only such frescoes in the Americas. They are held at the museum by agreement with the Church of Cyprus, their owners.
The neighborhood as a whole has a coordinated feel. The homes around the Menil Collection are all painted the same shade of gray. The Menil family gradually bought these homes, painted them the same color, and currently rents them to artists. The result is a neighborhood that feels aesthetically unified.
The Menil Collection is open to the public, and admission is free. It is located near the University of St. Thomas
, in the Montrose
district of Houston.
The Rothko Chapel, built in 1971, is an interfaith chapel commissioned by the de Ménils. In the entrance-way one can find donated holy books from various religious traditions that may be borrowed while in the chapel. The space is sky-lit, with kneeling mats, prayer benches, and/or meditation cushions, not to mention Rothko's wall-sized paintings. The Rothko Chapel is an independent, non-profit organization.
South of the entrance is a reflecting pool with the sculpture Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman, which the Ménils bought and installed here in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.