Modern and Contemporary
The Menil Collection is home to one of the world’s greatest privately assembled collections of twentieth-century art, including painting, sculpture, drawing, prints, and photography.
John and Dominique de Menil began collecting in the 1940s. They were drawn particularly to Surrealism and the schools of abstract painting that developed in the early twentieth century in their native Paris. Accordingly, they acquired works by such well-known artists as Georges Braque, Paul Cézanne, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Rouault. In addition, a significant collection of works by artists not commonly represented in collections in the United States features Christian Bérard, Jean Fautrier, Louis Fernández, and Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze).
“ A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer.”
—Mark Rothko Committed to the art of their time, over the course of the century, the de Menils collected from postwar movements including Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Neo Dada, and Minimalism. The Menil Collection now has major holdings in works by artists such as Dan Flavin, Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Walter de Maria, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Yves Klein, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Jean Tinguely, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol. The Menil campus provides sites for large-scale sculptures by Mark di Suvero, Michael Heizer, Jim Love, and Tony Smith, as well as a sound work by Max Neuhaus. Additionally, the Menil owns a large selection of sculpture by John Chamberlain.
The de Menils assembled their photography collection in keeping with their interest in humanitarian issues. As a result most of the collection’s photographs are portraits, often of poor or dispossessed people, along with a number of landscape photographs. A group of nearly 400 Henri Cartier-Bresson prints, selected by the artist, represents the most in-depth holdings by a single photographer in the collection. There are also particular strengths in works by William Christenberry, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, and Danny Lyon. Other notable artists represented include Ansel Adams, Eugene Atget, Gertrude Blom, Olafur Eliasson, Gertrude Kasebier, Jacques Henri Lartigue, David Levinthal, Helen Levitt, Nadar, Cindy Sherman, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand.
The Menil Collection remains an actively collecting institution.