In the early 1990s, the Menil Collection approached Cy Twombly (1928–2011) about a single-artist installation. A collaboration between the Menil, the Dia Foundation, and the artist himself, the Cy Twombly Gallery, opened in 1995, reflects this institution’s commitment to individual artists and to a standard of presentation that honors the creator’s intent as it immerses visitors in a carefully created environment.
Taken with the idea, Twombly became intimately involved in both the building—the plan has its roots in a sketch he made—and the selection and placement of artworks. The design was realized by architect Renzo Piano and the Cy Twombly Gallery opened in 1995.
The proportions and color of the concrete blocks and the single stepped base on which they rest create a strong yet quiet exterior. Piano designed a system for filtering sunlight by ingeniously layering fixed and moving louvers, a steel canopy, a skylight, and sailcloth, all of which hover above the unpainted plaster walls to produce a Mediterranean glow.
Twombly is best known for his large-scale calligraphic paintings. Fascinated with writing, the artist found inspiration in ancient Mediterranean history and geography, Greek and Roman mythology, classical literature, and poetry. References to these abound in his work.