Rebecca Rabinow, Director of the Menil Collection in Houston, welcomed civic officials, cultural leaders, community representatives, artists, supporters, and Menil leadership on November 3 for the dedication and public opening of the Menil Drawing Institute. The new home for the Institute is the first freestanding museum facility built expressly for the acquisition, study, exhibition, conservation, and storage of modern and contemporary drawings. The 30,000-square-foot, $40 million building—designed by Johnston Marklee in collaboration with landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates—opened with the inaugural exhibition The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns, spanning the artist’s career.
It is the fifth art building on the Menil’s renowned 30-acre campus, and the first art building to be added in more than 20 years. Admission to the Menil Collection is always free.
The Menil Drawing Institute has been a program of the Menil since 2008, organizing major traveling exhibitions and undertaking scholarly projects, including the Jasper
Johns Catalogue Raisonné of Drawings, 1954-2014. This landmark six-volume catalogue, published by the Menil Collection, will be released in conjunction with the opening of the building.
The Menil Drawing Institute now joins the four other art buildings in the Menil neighborhood: the celebrated Renzo Piano-designed main museum building, the Cy Twombly Gallery (also designed by Piano), the site-specific Dan Flavin installation at Richmond Hall, and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel designed by François de Menil (now a venue for long-term installations of contemporary art). Along with Bistro Menil, the Menil Bookstore, and a new Energy House (designed by Johnston Marklee), these buildings are situated amid park-like greenspaces and residential bungalows in the heart of the city.
To inaugurate the Menil Drawing Institute building, the Menil has organized The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns. John and Dominique de Menil purchased their first Johns drawing in 1969. Thanks to a bequest from former Menil trustee David Whitney and gifts and promised gifts from current Menil trustees Janie C. Lee and Louisa Stude Sarofim, the Menil is one of the world’s largest repositories of drawings by Johns. In The Condition of Being Here (a title taken from a notebook entry circa 1968 by Johns), the Menil Drawing Institute traces both the chronology of the artist’s career and his method of working in motifs, rather than in series, with images such as the target and the flag reappearing in his art over decades.
The exhibition includes 41 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).
An exhibition catalogue produced for The Condition of Being Here inaugurates a new book series designed to accompany Menil Drawing Institute exhibitions.