Menil Collection opens Drawing Institute
The new Menil Drawing Institute, part of the Menil Collection, opened up to the public on Saturday, Nov. 3.
According to the Menil, the Institute is the first free standing museum built expressly for the acquisition, study, exhibition, conservation and storage of modern and contemporary drawings.
“This is a beautiful, purposed structure. It is the first new building to open at the Menil Collection in more than 20 years,” Rebecca Rabinow, director of the Menil Collection said.
Rabinow noted that the idea of a Drawing Institute was discussed during Dominique de Menil’s lifetime.
“A number of people have championed the idea over the years,” Rabinow said. “Two trustees in particular have sustained and supported this vision: Janie C. Lee, and Louisa Stude Sarofim.”
The Menil Drawing Institute building is named in honor of Sarofim, who is a Menil Foundation Chair Emerita and Life Trustee member.
“The opening of this building marks a new chapter in the Menil Collection’s history,” Rabinow said.
The Menil Drawing Institute is located on the 30-acre campus of the Menil Collection, along with the four existing art buildings including the main museum building, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, the Cy Twombly Gallery and the Dan Flavin installation.
Architect firm Johnston Marklee designed the building. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. was the landscape architect.
“They created such a distinct and serene environment for works on paper,” Rabinow said.
Rabinow continued, “Based on the premise that drawing is central to artistic practice, this addition to the Menil’s neighborhood of art provides an intimate setting for the public and scholarly community, thus advancing our appreciation and scholarship of the medium.”
The inaugural exhibition in the Institute is The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns. The 41 pieces of artwork on display span his career, with work from 1954 to 2016. The exhibition is the third exhibition at the Menil devoted to Jasper Johns.
Thanks to a bequest from former Menil trustee David Whitney, and gifts and promises from current trustees Janie C. Lee and Sarofim, “The Menil is one of the most important repositories of John’s drawings,” Rabinow said.
Sharon Johnston, a founder of Johnston Marklee, along with partner Mark Lee, spoke about the design of the building.
Johnston explained that the building is 30,000 square feet, and it is anchored by three primary components, which are the exhibition gallery, the scholar’s study center and administration offices, and the Suzanne Deal Booth conservation lab. The scholar’s study center includes spaces such as the Janie C. Lee Drawing Room, a place for work and research. There are also several courtyards on the premises.
“It is largely an unprecedented building, both because of the medium, and in the way we brought together these specific programs,” Johnston said.
“Building on the legacy of the Menil collection, Dominique was so insistent on the idea that if you move around in the exterior, you have views into working spaces of the building,” Johnston said. “As we move through, there are glances into these spaces. You’ll see where the staff will work and the scholars will visit.”
The Menil Collection is located at 1533 Sul Ross Street. The Menil Drawing Institute is located at 1412 West Main Street. The Menil art buildings are open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free.