Menil Collection Makeover

Starting with the parking lot

We have recently read in the New York Times that the Menil Collection is taking major steps in their master plan to create a ‚neighborhood of art’. The Menil Collection, home to the collection of Dominique and John de Menil, opened in 1987 in Houston. However the Menils have been collecting for more than 40 years before opening the museum and ultimately amassed nearly 16.000 paintings, sculptures, decorative objects, prints, drawings, photographs and rare books.

In order to create a so-called neighborhood of art the collection has chosen landscape artist Michael van Valkenburgh to construct six new buildings dedicated to art. Van Valkenburgh will also design an outdoor sculpture park, bungalows and green spaces spread across several blocks on de Menils’ 30 acres of land. At the moment the collection is housed in the main building by Renzo Piano, the Cy Twombly Gallery and Richmond Hall, where works by Dan Flavin are shown.

Van Valkenburgh's first project will be redesigning the parking lot. Because as Josef Helfenstein, the director of the collection, said: "The parking lot really needs a lot of attention. It’s the first thing you see". The redesign will start in September this year.

Helfenstein mentioned that the enjoyment of the garden-like outdoor spaces is essential to the experience the Menil Collection. He says that the experience of crossing a green space under their magnificent trees as one goes from one gallery to another greatly enhances the appreciation of the art.

The Menil Collection is not the only one which values the importance of a natural landscape while viewing art. Two other examples are for instance the Gibbs Farm in New Zealand and the Oliver Ranch Foundation in California, USA. More information on all three collections can be found in the upcoming second volume of the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors.

The Menil Collection will continue to welcome the public during the redesign. At the moment a solo exhibition by Forrest Bess is on view followed by a retrospective of Wols (1913 – 1951), a leading figure in Tachisme, an European painting movement comparable to American Abstract Expressionism and painter Luc Tuymans (*1958).

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