02/09/15 11:45am

AND NOW, AN INCREASINGLY ABSTRACT VIEW OF WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WORK AT THE ROTHKO CHAPEL Alberto Sosa’s latest animated video interview of a starting-level employee in the Houston art world features visitor services and volunteer coordinator Yma Luis — and thousands of drawings. [Glasstire] Video: Alberto Sosa

01/29/15 3:30pm

Cleared Portion of Richmont Square Apartments, 1400 Richmond Ave., Montrose, Houston

The back third of the Menil-owned Richmont Square Apartments has now been cleared away. Left to dispose of: a below-grade swimming pool in the middle of the lot, plus a garage apartment behind the DaCamera building at 1427 Branard St., next door to the Menil’s Cy Twombly gallery. Swamplot reader and artist Bob Russell takes a break from creating his own satellite-imagery-inspired drawings to send in the above quick ground-level panorama of the sketchy spot where Johnston Marklee’s low-slung $40 million Menil Drawing Institute will be mapped out and filled in.


Johnston Marklee Going Here
12/22/14 2:00pm


Behold Friday’s sodden wreckage of the northernmost 33 percent of the Richmont Square apartment complex at 1400 Richmond, which is currently being erased to make way for the Menil’s upcoming drawing institute.


Menil On The Move
12/01/14 11:30am

TILDA GOES FULL MENIL Photo by Tim Walker of Tilda Swinton at the Menil Collection, HoustonFrom the looks of this W magazine fashion shoot with photographer Tim Walker, glacial space oddity Tilda Swinton managed to gaze upon and or fondle every objet d’art John and Dominique de Menil brought to Houston, be those treasures stashed away in their River Oaks home or on display in the Montrose museum. At the latter, while wafting through the South Seas galleries in a full-length Del Pozo coat, Swinton was in the mood to coo, ah and ooh. “They presumed art to be good for human dignity,” Swinton says of the de Menils to William Middleton, W correspondent and author of an upcoming biography on the arts patrons. “There is a practical magic that shows itself in the exquisite simplicity of each installation; there is nothing to get in the way of a direct relationship between the viewer and a work of art.” (With unfortunate results, in one high-profile recent case.) Swinton also donned “a painted metal corset by the London designer Johanna O’Hagan, a pair of black boots by Versace, and little else” in order to recreate Retour de la Belle Jardinière, Max Ernst’s 1967 reincarnation of his own La Belle Jardinière, a 1923 Surrealist near-nude that was later condemned as “degenerate art” by the Nazis and presumably destroyed. (The first Jardinière was itself Ernst’s reworking of a Raphael Madonna-and-Child painting by the same name.) The de Menils purchased Retour, thus affording Swinton and Walker the chance to shoot a retour of a retour of a retour of la Belle Jardinière. “This is the special magic of these collaborations,” Swinton tells Middleton, still clad in her skimpy Jardinière regalia. “There is not just a vague referencing of de Menil but also an immersion into her world. We’re crossing into a no-man’s-land between history and imagination, in an attempt to evoke her spirit, and the spirit of the world she inhabited.” [W ] Photo: Tim Walker / W magazine.

10/06/14 11:15am

THE MENIL COLLECTION GETS ITS RAP TRIBUTE The Menil Song CoverIn advance of their exhibition and performances next month at the Art League of Houston, where they’ll recreate 5 performances by the Art Guys, “while adding a twist that could only come from Black Guys,” artists and musicians Robert Hodge and Philip Pyle II released what appears to be the first-ever song about Houston’s Menil Collection — or at least the first one available on the iTunes Music Store (where it costs 99 cents, but you can preview a short segment for free). And over on Glasstire, Bill Davenport has helped out the auditorially challenged by transcribing (most of) the entertaining and insider-y rap-style lyrics, including the catchy chorus (“Riding by Menil slow, you don’t need no cash flow, we the only negroes, Hodge and Phil”). Sadly, no accompanying video has been released, but a note on the website of Everything Records indicates an album entitled presenting . . . The Black Guys is forthcoming. A solo show of Hodge’s paintings opened last Friday at the CAMH. [Glasstire; Everything Records] Cover art: The Black Guys

09/30/14 10:00am

SNIFFING OUT THE SUBTLE SECRETS OF THE ROTHKO CHAPEL Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon St., Montrose, HoustonExploring the Menil’s quiet, deep-purple monument, the Chronicle‘s Leah Binkovitz turns up a couple new lines of investigation: “In a turn Rothko, with his proscriptions for proper viewing, could never have anticipated, the chapel has its own Yelp page. ‘Whatever, some people don’t like to think too much about life and what our place is and if you’re one of those people, this isn’t the place for you,’ writes Eric J. in his recent review, ‘You need to head on down to Moody Gardens for “Pirates” or whatever.’ Inside, there’s a collection of Rothko paintings — dark and turbid — that surround the viewer. When the sun sifting through the clerestory shifts, the purple panels shine like scars. People meditate on cushions on the ground or lean against each other on the benches. The occasional crinkle of a plastic bag breaks the silence. There’s a smell, a specific Rothko Chapel smell. That’s the first thing two dashing young men in khaki shorts comment on when they leave the chapel.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Ed Uthman [license; cropped]

08/07/14 10:45am

A HOUSTON BICYCLE MUSEUM ARRIVES IN THE MUSEUM DISTRICT 1313 Binz St., Museum District, HoustonThe latest institution to roll into Houston’s Museum District is the Houston Bicycle Museum, which just leased the former bank building at 1313 Binz St. (shown at left) from the Holocaust Museum Houston, and is hoping volunteers will help it clean up the space and install exhibits. The structure is meant to house the organization’s collection of antique and classic bikes and related memorabilia. The Houston Bicycle Museum, run by Daniel Boone Cycles owner Joy Boone, has been fundraising to build a permanent home for itself near the corner of Crawford and Calumet streets — a few blocks away. Its new temporary location is one block south of the Holocaust museum and across Binz St. from the parking lot in front of the Park Plaza Hospital MRI facility. Photo: Houston Bicycle Museum

06/27/14 11:15am

Future Site of Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage, 607 Chenevert St., Downtown Houston

Chiming in with this morning’s Demo Report, which more formally announces the departure of a couple of old single-story buildings at 607 and 609 Chenevert St., reader Jack Miller sends in this photo of the scene yesterday a couple blocks north of the George R. Brown Convention Center and immediately south of Minute Maid Park. At the far left, an excavator is seen assuring that the former Houston Professional Musicians’ Association and Houston Precious Metals buildings from 1949 will indeed get out of the way in time for the Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage to be built on the site.

Is this yet another story of older Houston buildings making way for the new? Maybe, but at a larger scale, it’s partly the reverse: Two houses from 1904 and 1905 were moved onto a portion of Avenida de Las Americas glommed onto the site 3 years ago, on a spot across Texas Ave. from the ball park (behind and to the left of the camera). And the photo below includes a glimpse (on the far right) of the 1919 Southern Pacific 982 steam engine scooted out of the houses’ way and settled in along the light-rail line on Capitol St.:


Centering Our Cultural Heritage
04/07/14 11:00am

Construction of Bistro Menil, 1512 Sul Ross St., Montrose, Houston

Construction of Bistro Menil, 1512 Sul Ross St., Montrose, HoustonWhatever the original plans were for the partial demolition of the gray-painted 1940 bungalow that sat across the street from the Menil Collection and across the footpath to the West Alabama St. parking lot from the Menil Bookstore, they appear to have been exceeded. A reader sends in these photos of the construction site at 1512 Sul Ross St.; they show that the woodframe structure intended for “adaptive reuse” into a new Bistro Menil according to a design by Stern and Bucek Architects has been removed entirely.

The Menil had announced plans for the bungalow-to-bistro conversion at that spot last October, in concert with an upgrade of the parking-lot path into a “new campus gateway” designed by landscape firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. “In keeping with the emphasis on sustainability that is a keynote of the landscape design,” read a Menil press release, “the Menil’s café is designed by Stern and Bucek through the adaptive reuse of one of the bungalows that define the character of the Menil’s campus.” The press release also noted that the Menil’s architect, Renzo Piano, had originally proposed putting a café in this exact location. Since named (via a contest) Bistro Menil, the arts institution’s first eating spot is set to be run by Café Annie, Taco Milagro, and Café Express alum Greg Martin.


Leaving Only Footprints
04/01/14 5:15pm

1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

The few interior photos included in the listing of William F. Stern’s house at the corner of Milford and Mt. Vernon show the 1990 structure stripped of most of its furnishings — but with much of its famed artwork still on the walls. Are those paintings museum-quality, though? Certifiably, it turns out: Stern, who passed away a year ago from pancreatic cancer, willed the house and its artwork to the Menil Collection. The Menil is accepting all the art into its collection, but put the house on the market last month — with an asking price of $1.475 million.


Paintings Without a Home
02/24/14 1:30pm

Former Rice Museum, Rice University, HoustonFormer Rice Museum, Rice University, Houston

Online arts publication Glasstire is reporting that Rice University’s public-affairs office has confirmed plans to demolish the University’s most famous metal-sided structure. Known since the mid-1980s as the School of Continuing Studies Speros P. Martel Building, the southern half of the 45-year-old duo was dubbed the “Art Barn,” and was originally home to the Rice Museum, a predecessor to the Menil Collection.

John and Dominique de Menil paid for the construction of both corrugated buildings in 1969, and selected the architects, Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry. The structures were created to house Rice’s art and art history departments, along with the de Menils’ Institute for the Arts, which the couple moved from the University of St. Thomas after a dispute with that institution. The de Menils later left Rice to start their own little Menil Collection in Montrose. The simple, unassuming design of the structures they left behind became the inspiration and model for a series of “Tin Houses” — Galvalume-clad homes designed by Houston architects primarily in the West End and Rice Military area.


But Andy Warhol’s Tree Will Stay
02/19/14 1:15pm

Proposed Menil Drawing Institute by Johnston Marklee, West Main St., Montrose, Houston

The Menil Collection released details of the low-slung design L.A. architects Johnston Marklee have put together for the new Menil Drawing Institute, which is being touted as the “first freestanding facility in the United States created especially for the exhibition, study, storage, and conservation of modern and contemporary drawings.” And staring at the renderings, the institute’s future sure looks bright. There’s the bright exterior walls, lit by the Houston sun; the white steel-plate roof that’s supposed to look like it’s hovering over the building and 2 surrounding courtyards — “rather like a folded sheet of paper,” in the architects’ words. But the inside of the building, where the drawings are displayed, it’s going to be dark.


A New Menil, Facing West Main St.
11/21/13 1:00pm

Katy Contemporary Arts Museum, 805 Ave. B at First St., Katy, Texas

Where is the new Katy Contemporary Arts Museum? “In the heart of Katy’s Museum District,” boasts the brand-new institution’s website. That appears to be shorthand for “right across from the Katy Railroad Park and Tourist Center“; the Katy Heritage Museum and Park and “G.I. Joe” Museum are a half-mile northeast. The white concrete-and-brick building at 805 Ave. B, at the corner of First St., was originally built in 1953 for the Katy Lumber Company. The museum chose the structure for its easy access to I-10, among other features. Like its more sophisticated metal-clad sorta-namesake in Houston, admission is free; but art blogger Robert Boyd notes there are plans to expand the 5,000-sq.-ft. facility to house an actual permanent collection:


Trains, Guns, and Art
11/04/13 11:30am

The new Menil Drawing Institute building, being designed by LA architects Johnston Marklee (winners of last year’s competition), will sit on land currently occupied by the Menil’s Richmont Square apartment building. The arts institution doesn’t have plans to tear down the entire apartment complex, however: Drawings submitted to the planning commission as part of a variance application show only the northernmost bank — at the back of the site — wiped clean.


10/10/13 10:35am

Architecture firm Stern and Bucek has come up with this rendering of the Menil Collection’s new cafe, part of the free museum’s long-planned expansion of its Montrose campus. The design for the cafe — which is yet to be named but will be run by Greg Martin (of Cafés Annie and Express and Taco Milagro) — appears to adapt and elaborate upon the gray bungalow at 1512 Sul Ross St., on the other side of that path from the Menil Bookstore; this is the same site, says a press release from the Menil Collection, that architect Renzo Piano originally had in mind for a similar amenity. So there’s that. Whatever it’ll be called, the cafe, it appears, will split the difference between the museum’s main entrance and the parking lot off W. Alabama.