Dear John & Dominique : Letters and Drawings from the Menil Archives
Niki de Saint-Phalle, untitled New Year's greeting to Dominique de Menil, 1979.
The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of the artist.
August 10, 2012 - January 6, 2013
This exhibition commemorates the Menil’s 25th anniversary. It celebrates the founders of the Menil Collection, John and Dominique de Menil, through the words and images in the letters and drawings sent to them by their friends: artists, curators, museum directors, architects, family members and intellectuals. In gratitude, awe and delight the assembled exchanges penned in the collected correspondence from the Menil Archives provides a unique and intimate look at the pioneering ideas that helped form the museum long before the building opened in 1987.
The exhibited letters will be displayed in the gallery, turned into an archival reading room. Here museum guests will be able to comfortably spend time with the letters, which will be augmented by a selection of photography and ephemera also pulled from the archive. Together the materials reveal the complexity and pleasure of the swirling art world the de Menil’s inhabited, as well as the profundity and conviction of their project, and the magnitude of their patronage of living artists. This is expressed in the simple eloquence of a letter from Robert Rauschenberg to Dominique de Menil from 1996 that will be included in the exhibition. It reads:
“Dear Dominique, I personally, and the world specifically, will and do celebrate your devotions, dedication and accomplishments. I am grateful that your acceptance of my artwork— marking your unique contributions—can be a contract to our future services to continue our unveering care. Let’s get on with our joyous work. We are needed as never before—again. Thank you from the depths of my mind, body and heart. Robert Rauschenberg.”
As a component of the exhibition, the Menil Collection will launch an interactive cell-phone tour of the Menil campus, compiled of rare audio recordings from the Menil archives, including the voices of John and Dominique de Menil. It will also feature the perspective of those who have impacted—and are continuing to impact—the formation of the museum and the neighborhood. Dear John and Dominique: Letters and Drawings from the Menil Archives is organized by Michelle White, curator, with Geraldine Aramanda, Menil Collection archivist.