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Visitors to the Menil Collection have a rare opportunity this fall to experience works from the museum’s Surrealist collection in dialogue with one of the movement’s major figures – Salvador Dalí. On loan from the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, the artist’s 1932 painting, Eggs on the Plate Without the Plate, greets viewers on a wall by itself as they enter the first of three galleries reinstalled for this special exhibition. Curated by Assistant Curator Clare Elliott and consisting of some 30 works by 12 artists, The Secret of the Hanging Egg: Salvador Dalí at the Menil opened on November 5, 2015 and will remain on view through June 19 of next year.

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The new year has got off to a good start in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen with the return of three traveling masterpieces from the collection. Last year almost one million Americans enjoyed the Rotterdam Magrittes in New York, Houston and Chicago. The works by René Magritte (1898-1967) can be seen in an updated hanging of the outstanding Surrealism collection.

After a journey of more than a year the museum is celebrating the homecoming of three works of art with a rehang of the Surrealist rooms. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen took the unusual step of lending the paintings to the major Magritte exhibition in MoMA, the Menil Collection and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Mohandas K. Gandhi, the 20th-century pioneer of nonviolent social change, would have been 145 years old this year. A major new Menil Collection exhibition illustrates how he was a man for all ages.

A native of India, Gandhi was a London-trained lawyer who fought discrimination in South Africa for 20 years before he returned home about 100 years ago to teach his philosophy of satyagraha - "soul force" or "truth force" - promoting nonviolent resistance against colonial depredations and the caste system.

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A nicely suited man slips a hand into a trouser pocket and tilts his head toward the gramophone. His coat is slung over a nearby chair beside a suitcase. He seems to be savoring a few final bars before taking his leave, an exit that seems unrushed.

Beyond his view, two bowler-hatted men lie in wait, one with a net, the other a club. Just behind him, a woman lies naked, eyes closed and blood raining from her mouth. There it is — the inevitable bit of bloodletting in the otherwise bloodless, tidy paintings of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte.

This is the potency of Magritte's popular, endlessly reproduced and much underestimated works, enigmatic paintings that inspired the green apple on the Beatles' record label, the bottle-filled sea in the title credits for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and any number of book covers on psychology, among many other pop culture riffs.

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A major step has been taken in the Menil Collection’s master plan to create a “neighborhood of art” on their 30-acre campus. The Houston museum has chosen landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh to helm the expansion, which consists of the construction of six buildings dedicated to art, an outdoor sculpture park, bungalows, and green spaces spread across several blocks. Van Valkenburgh, who has offices in Brooklyn, NY and Cambridge, MA, has redesigned Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House (Washington, D.C.), Brooklyn Bridge Park (New York), Hudson River Park (New York), and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston). The London-based firm David Chipperfield Architects is directing the Menil’s overarching expansion plan, which includes the creation of new green spaces, walkways, visitor amenities, and gallery buildings.

Renzo Piano designed the Menil, which was founded by collectors John and Dominique de Menil, in 1987. The museum houses the de Menil’s comprehensive collection of 20th century art, which includes works by René Magritte (1898-1967), Man Ray (1890-1976), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), and Mark Rothko (1903-1970). The museum also includes a separate gallery dedicated to Cy Twombly (1928-2011), which was also designed by Piano.  

The first phase of the renovation is expected to kick off in September 2013.

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Wednesday, 08 May 2013 18:33

MoMA will Host Major Magritte Show this Fall

An exhibition organized in collaboration with Houston’s Menil Collection and the Art Institute of Chicago will open on September 28, 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Magritte the Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938 is the first exhibition to focus on the pioneering Surrealist artist René Magritte’s formative years.

Beginning in 1926, Magritte embarked on a quest to “challenge the real world,” which concluded in 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II. Featuring 80 works including paintings, collages, and objects, the exhibition touches on the varying concepts Magritte explored during this time including displacement, transformation, metamorphosis, and representation.

The exhibition, which will be on view through January 12, 2014, will also include a selection of photographs, periodicals, and a number of Magritte’s early commercial works in an effort to convey the artist’s budding identity.

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Thursday, 07 February 2013 04:42

The Menil Collection

Last June, the Menil Collection (Fig. 1) in Houston, Texas, celebrated its twenty-fifth year as a public institution. Situated in Montrose, an inner-city enclave populated by residential blocks, the Menil houses the privately assembled collection of John and Dominique de Menil.

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Surrealism, a cultural movement that includes visual arts, literature, film, and music, began in the 1920s with the musings of the French writer and poet, André Breton (1896-1966). Now celebrated and studied for its innovative and daring nature, surrealism pushed the boundaries in regard to established aesthetics and artistic techniques. While experimenting with modern conventions, surrealist masters such as Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), Max Ernst (1891-1976), René Magritte (1898-1967), and Joan Miró (1893-1983) went on to create some of the most revered artworks of the 20th century.

Drawing Surrealism, an exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York, explores the surrealists’ relationship with drawing. While most exhibitions and scholars tend to focus on the surrealists’ paintings and sculptures, drawing played a pivotal part in the movement. The medium, which is highly connected to the brain and offers a sense of immediacy and spontaneity, was the perfect vehicle for the surrealists who valued the subconscious mind, dream imagery, language, and happenstance. The Surrealists used techniques such as automatic drawing and frottage, which requires rubbing graphite or another drawings material on a sheet of paper that is place over a textured surface, to bypass the conscious mind, creating instinctive and inimitable works.

Drawing Surrealism, which is co-organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), presents over 165 works on paper and occupies two of the Morgan’s galleries. The exhibition is organized chronologically, illustrating how surrealist drawing techniques evolved and spread throughout the world over time. The Morgan, LACMA, Tate Modern (London), the Pompidou Center (Paris), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and the Menil Collection (Houston) all contributed works for the exhibition.

Drawing Surrealism will be on view at the Morgan Library & Museum through April 21, 2013.

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Wednesday, 09 January 2013 19:05

Picasso Vandal Surrenders

On June 13, 2012 a vandal spray-painted a stencil of a bullfighter killing a bull and the word “conquista” (Spanish for conquer) on Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) Woman in a Red Armchair (1929). Officials named Houston-resident Uriel Landeros, 22, the assailant but were unable to locate him until he surrendered to authorities on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at the border of the United States and Mexico.

The vandalism incident took place at Houston’s Menil Collection and was caught on a cellphone video taken by a fellow museum patron. Landeros, an artist himself, claims that his act of defacement was meant to send a message promoting revolution and change. He was later charged with criminal mischief and felony graffiti, which prompted Landeros to flee the country. Officials believe he has been hiding out in Mexico since June.

Woman in a Red Armchair, which is valued at several million dollars, has since been restored.

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Designed by Renzo Piano, the museum that houses the collection of John de Menil and Dominique de Menil opened to the public 25 years ago. A sold-out gala is being held tonight, November 29, to celebrate. The fete has raised $2.2 million, exceeding its $1.5 million goal. This is only the third gala held by the Menil Collection as the institution already boasts an endowment of approximately $200 million thanks to support from the board, donors, and corporate sponsors.

The theme of the night will be “Celebration in Blue,” a tribute to Yves Klein, an important figure in post-war European art and a personal friend of the Menils. Among the 700 guests will be Pablo Picasso’s grandson, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, philanthropist Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, and hedge fund chief John D. Arnold.

A silent auction will also be held at the gala. The 31 lots include works by Ed Ruscha, Olafur Eliasson, and Richard Serra. Proceeds will support operations and exhibitions. The museum plans to expand their contemporary art collection and hope to build the Menil Drawing Institute to house and exhibit modern and contemporary works.

The free museum features over 15,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and rare books from the 20th century, all of which were once part of the Menils extensive private art holdings. Included in the impressive collection are works by Paul Cezanne, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollack.

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