HOUSTON, TX, November 16, 2016 — Rebecca Rabinow, Director of the Menil Collection, today announced that the Menil Drawing Institute—the first freestanding facility built expressly for the exhibition, study, conservation, and storage of modern and contemporary drawings—will open on October 7, 2017.
The Menil Drawing Institute has been a program of the Menil since 2008, organizing major traveling exhibitions and undertaking scholarly projects including preparation of the catalogue raisonné of the drawings of Jasper Johns. MDI’s home, designed by the Los Angeles-based firm of Johnston Marklee with the collaboration of landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, will be the fifth art building on the Menil’s 30-acre campus, joining the celebrated main museum building, the Cy Twombly Gallery, the site-specific Dan Flavin installation at Richmond Hall, and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel (now a venue for long-term installations of contemporary art), which are situated amid green spaces and residential bungalows.
To celebrate completion of the 30,000-square-foot, $40 million MDI building, the Menil will organize two exhibitions of major gifts of art that have transformed the museum’s growing collection of drawings.
From February 23 through June 18, 2017, in its main museum building, the Menil will present The Beginning of Everything: Drawings from the Janie C. Lee, Louisa Stude Sarofim, and David Whitney Collections. The wide-ranging exhibition will feature almost one hundred master drawings, which represent a selection of the gifts promised to the Menil by Trustees Janie C. Lee and Louisa Stude Sarofim and bequeathed in 2005 by David Whitney. Johnston Marklee’s Menil Drawing Institute building, opening October 7, 2017, will be inaugurated with The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns, an exhibition spanning the artist’s entire career.
Rebecca Rabinow said, “The Menil Collection opened its greatly admired main building in 1987 with an installation of artworks that John and Dominique de Menil resolved to make accessible to the public, free of charge and in perpetuity. As we approach our 30th anniversary, it is wonderfully appropriate that we inaugurate a new building dedicated to drawing, a medium that speaks to the essence of creativity. The opening exhibition celebrates masterworks donated by three of the museum’s most generous patrons. We eagerly look forward to welcoming visitors to our upcoming exhibitions, to commemorating our anniversary, and to debuting the new Menil Drawing Institute.”
Development of the Menil Drawing Institute is funded through a $115 million Campaign for the Menil. The campaign supports additional capital projects including construction of a new Energy House, expansion and enhancement of green spaces, and improvement and refurbishment of infrastructure, as well as an increase in the endowment, enabling the Menil Collection to always remain free of charge. Rebecca Rabinow has announced that the campaign has now passed the $100 million mark.
Exhibitions of Drawings for the Inaugural Year
The act of drawing gives a material trace to thought and transcends many disciplines. It is as valuable to the choreographer, composer, and architect as it is to the visual artist. “When I see a white piece of paper,” Ellsworth Kelly once remarked, “I feel like I've got to draw. And drawing, for me, is the beginning of everything."
Acknowledging the primary place of drawing in creative life, the exhibition The Beginning of Everything: Drawings from the Janie C. Lee, Louisa Stude Sarofim, and David Whitney Collections will be on view exclusively at the Menil Collection from February 23 through June 18, 2017. Artists represented in the exhibition include Magdalena Abakanowicz, Frank Auerbach, Balthus, George Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Vija Celmins, Paul Cézanne, Willem de Kooning, Edgar Degas, Dan Flavin, Helen Frankenthaler, Alberto Giacometti, Robert Gober, Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Lee Krasner, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Piet Mondrian, Bruce Nauman, Georgia O’Keeffe, Claes Oldenburg, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Cy Twombly, Rachel Whiteread, and Terry Winters.
To inaugurate the MDI building in autumn 2017, the Menil will be the exclusive venue for The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns. The title of the exhibition comes from a notebook entry Johns made in 1968. By not establishing a predetermined path through the exhibition, either physically or chronologically, the exhibition aims to emulate the profound capacity in Johns’s art to give the viewer a better sense of his or her place, the poetry, and mechanics of being present. With the promised gifts from Janie C. Lee and Louisa Stude Sarofim of 15 Johns drawings and 17 drawings in the bequest from David Whitney the Menil is now one of the world’s largest repositories of drawings by Johns and a primary institution for viewing and studying this important aspect of the artist’s practice.
The exhibition will trace both the chronology of the career as well as the artist’s recurrent use of images. Johns works in motifs—not in series—so, for example, that the target or the flag reappear in his art over decades. The exhibition will include drawings made in graphite, ink, charcoal, watercolor, colored pencil, acrylic, water-soluble encaustic, pastel, powdered graphite, gouache, and oil stick, on surfaces ranging from paper to plastic.
This will be the third exhibition of works by Jasper Johns presented at the Menil Collection, following Jasper Johns: The Sculptures (1996) and Jasper Johns: Drawings (2003). Additionally, for the past 6 years, the Menil has undertaken the research and preparation of assembling the complete drawings of Jasper Johns. The Jasper Johns Catalogue Raisonné of Drawings will include multiple volumes with more than 800 works including their exhibition and publication histories.
Construction Update on the MDI Building
Construction of the MDI building and its surroundings is on schedule for the October 7, 2017 opening. The MDI’s lower level—a crucial and complex area—is now completely built out, with systems and framing installed. The building’s superstructure is complete as well, the building has been topped out, and the large exterior glass panes are starting to be installed.
The next major steps will be the fabrication of the signature steel canopies of the MDI’s three courtyards, with pieces being delivered in 60-foot-long sections, and installation of the exterior wood paneling. The installation of large trees, plants, and marble slabs in the courtyards will begin in early spring 2017.
In addition, the Energy House designed by Johnston Marklee will provide a new central source of heating and cooling for the campus. It is now 85 percent complete, and the start-up and commissioning of systems has begun. When this new building goes online, the Menil will remove the existing energy facility to make way for a new parklike green space designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
The extension of West Main Street immediately south of the MDI building also has been completed, easing the passage of cars and pedestrians through the Menil campus.
Celebrating the Menil Collection’s 30th Anniversary
On June 4, 2017, the Menil Collection will mark the 30th anniversary of its opening. Celebrations will continue through autumn 2017. In addition to the inauguration of the MDI building, these events will include a major exhibition in the main museum building of the work of Mona Hatoum opening October 13, 2017, and a celebratory fundraising gala on December 2, 2017, only the fourth to be held in the Menil’s history. A full schedule of 30th anniversary events will be announced in early 2017.