The Menil Collection’s publishing program contributes to the history and interpretation of art, provides intellectual contexts for artworks on exhibition or in the collection, and comprehensively catalogues artists' entire bodies of work. Books of many sizes and shapes extend the museum’s reach and engage audiences around the world. New forms are being explored on this website (under "read/all/online-features") to engage digital visitors, many of whom may never visit in person; inside the museum, exhibition gallery guides crafted to inform viewers during and after their visits are available for free.
Books are ambassadors for the museum; they document temporary exhibitions and special projects as well as permanent holdings. Since the contraction of commercial book publishing in the early 2000s, mission-driven art museum publishing programs have become even more prominent vehicles for new research and critical insights. Long before the museum opened in 1987, the founding collectors John and Dominique de Menil were actively producing exhibitions and catalogues with various Houston arts organizations. National attention came with two exhibitions organized by their Institute of the Arts at Rice University, 1969’s Raid the Icebox 1 with Andy Warhol, initiated by John de Menil, and the Yves Klein retrospective of 1982, curated by Dominique de Menil and circulated to Chicago, New York, and Paris.