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Arts / Museums

New Houston Museum Building’s Much-Anticipated Big Reveal Gets Moved

Drawing a New Future

BY // 07.26.17

Just in: 2018 promises to cast Houston in the international limelight, thanks to three breaking cultural stories — the opening of the new grass-roofed Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (architect Steven Holl, readying for January 2018 classes); the publication of William Middleton’s decade-in-the-making biography of Dominique and John de Menil (Alfred A. Knopf, March 2018); and our story, the unveiling of the Menil Drawing Institute, which as of today’s official announcement, has been pushed back to this coming year (postponed from its original October 7 unveiling).

Menil director Rebecca Rabinow said, “Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that we will need more time to complete the Menil Drawing Institute and the other exciting projects on our campus, such as the new public greenspaces, in a manner that meets our exacting standards.”

Not since the nearly concurrent completions 45 years earlier of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (architect Gunnar Birkerts, 1972) and the Upper Brown Pavilion at the MFAH (Mies van der Rohe, 1974), has Houston seen such a flurry of museum building, with the opening of the MFAH Nancy and Rich Kinder Building to follow in 2019.

Meanwhile, the extra time for the MDI — as insiders call the new $40 million, 30,000 square-foot building designed by L.A.-based firm Johnston Marklee — only whets collectors’ and connoisseurs’ appetites for the sole freestanding facility in the U.S. devoted to the exhibition and study of modern and contemporary drawing.

But rest assured this fall will not be without its Menil highlights. October 13 the museum opens the first major American museum survey in 20 years on the work of international artist Mona Hatoum (through February 25).

Hatoum’s “Terra Infirma” exhibit will comment on issues of the body, war, exile, uneasy globalism, and shifting geographies, with elements of Surrealism in keeping with the museum’s strong holdings in that area.

And come December, the 30th anniversary of the Menil’s founding will be celebrated with a lavish ball informed by fantasy, titled “Luminous.” Chaired by illustrious personages Allison Sarofim and Stuart Parr, Leigh and Reggie Smith, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, and Adelaide de Menil Carpenter, and set for the eve of the full moon, Saturday December 2, the Surrealist mise en scène will be held in a tented aerie on the museum lawn.

The big night, only the museum’s fourth gala in three decades, honors Menil board chairman Louisa Stude Sarofim, with honorary chairs architect Renzo Piano — who designed the Menil, his first building in America — and French Ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud. (Tickets from $2,500; tables from $25,000; Menil events department, 713.535.3173, events@menil.org.)

Architectural renderings courtesy of Johnston Marklee / Igor Brozyna.

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