At Large  November 7, 2018  Chandra Noyes

Newly Opened Menil Drawing Institute Aims to Expand Scholarship

Photo by Richard Barnes. Courtesy the Menil Collection, Houston.

The Menil Drawing Institute, Louisa Stude Sarofim Building, West Elevation

This weekend in Houston, the Menil Collection opened the doors to the newest building on its 30-acre campus. The Menil Drawing Institute’s 30,000-square-foot, $40 million building houses the Menil’s comprehensive drawing collection and represents the first freestanding building in the United States built expressly for the exhibit, study, storage, and conservation of modern and contemporary drawings.

Photo by Richard Barnes. Courtesy the Menil Collection, Houston.

Detail of South Elevation and East Courtyard

The first building to be added to the Menil Campus in more than 20 years, it joins four other structures: the main museum building, designed by Renzo Piano; the Cy Twombly Gallery (also designed by Piano); Richmond  Hall, which houses a site-specific Dan Flavin installation; and  the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, designed by François de Menil. The Menil Collection’s main building opened to the public in 1987 and has since become a major destination for art study and tourism.

Their inaugural exhibition showcases the Menil’s impressive collection of Jasper Johns drawings, an exhibition and accompanying catalogue raisonné a decade in the making. The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns spans the artist’s career, with 41 works in a variety of media. The Menil is one of the world’s largest repositories of drawings by Johns, and amongst these works audiences will recognize many of Johns familiar subjects, styles, and motifs.

Jasper Johns, Flag on Orange Field, 1957
© 2018 Jasper John s / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Jasper Johns, Flag on Orange Field, 1957. Fluorescent paint, watercolor, pastel, and graphite pencil on paper.

Jasper Johns, Untitled, 1990. Watercolor and graphite pencil on paper.
© 2018 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Jasper Johns, Untitled, 1990. Watercolor and graphite pencil on paper.

Jasper Johns, Numbers, 1966
© 2018 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Jasper Johns, Numbers, 1966. Ink and graphite pencil on plastic.

Jasper Johns, Corpse, 1974-1975
© 2018 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Jasper Johns, Corpse, 1974-1975. Colored ink, oil stick, pastel, and graphite pencil on paper.

Jasper Johns, Periscope, 1977
© 2018 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Jasper Johns, Periscope, 1977. Colored ink, watercolor, and graphite pencil on plastic.

Jasper Johns, Bushbaby, 2004
© 2018 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Jasper Johns, Bushbaby, 2004. Acrylic and graphite pencil on paper mounted on paper.

Designed by Los Angeles-based architecture firm Johnston Marklee and New York-based landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the new building is named for Menil Collection Chair Emerita Louisa Stude Sarofim, who for years worked on and championed the Drawing Institute. Menil Collection Director Rebecca Rabinow describes the building’s architecture as “quietly innovative.” Striking a delicate balance between ample natural light and protecting fragile works on paper from the powerful Texas sun, the Drawing Institute’s vaulted ceilings and peaceful open spaces are reminiscent of the nearby Rothko Chapel, another project commisioned by the collection's founders, the de Menils.

The Janie C. Lee Drawing Room
Photo by Richard Barnes. Courtesy the Menil Collection, Houston.

The Janie C. Lee Drawing Room

South Elevation
Photo by Richard Barnes. Courtesy the Menil Collection, Houston.

South Elevation at the Menil Drawing Institute

The West Courtyard
Photo by Richard Barnes. Courtesy the Menil Collection, Houston.

The West Courtyard

The Menil Drawing Institute is located at 1412 West Main Street, Houston. All Menil art spaces are open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and admission to the Menil is always free.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra is managing editor for Art & Object.