Art takes time, and so, it seems, does creating innovative, protective, and beautiful structures to house art. So we’ve kept an understanding attitude when the Menil Collection kept us waiting for the opening of their Menil Drawing Institute this winter and spring. Happily, the wait is almost over, though the anticipation still rises, as Menil director Rebecca Rabinow recently announced the 30,000-square-foot, $40 million building will officially open to the public November 3, 2018.
The Menil Drawing Institute’s home, designed by the Los Angeles-based firm of Johnston Marklee with the collaboration of landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, is the fifth art building on the Menil’s 30-acre campus, joining the Renzo Piano-designed main museum building, the Cy Twombly Gallery, the site-specific Dan Flavin installation at Richmond Hall, and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel — housing long-term contemporary art installations — which are situated amid greenspaces and residential bungalows.
“We look forward to welcoming visitors, artists, researchers, and our generous supporters to the Menil Drawing Institute, which was brilliantly designed by Johnston Marklee to elevate the understanding and appreciation of drawing in modern and contemporary art,” stated Rabinow, in the announcement, adding “Sited in the center of our neighborhood, the Menil Drawing Institute offers a deeply thoughtful, highly personal window into the practice of drawing, which we hope will intrigue and inspire all who visit.”
First scheduled to open in the fall of 2017 as part of the Menil’s 30 anniversary celebration, the Menil gave us the disappointing news in July 2017 of the delay. Last summer, Rabinow explained they needed more time to complete the institute building as well as the new public greenspaces in a manner in keeping with their “exacting standards,” and rather than rush to open, Rabinow and the trustees made the decision to delay to “ensure that everything is perfect.”
In March 2017 when CultureMap was invited for a preview tour through the institute that was still under construction, Sharon Johnston, co-founder of architecture firm Johnston Marklee, explained that a challenge inherent to designing a building for visitors, scholars, and the artwork itself was to “create a welcoming, generous and transparent building to house one of the most delicate mediums of artistic practice which is works on paper.”
But with perfection close to being achieve, the MDI will reveal itself to the public with a very special exhibition, “The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns.” This inaugural exhibition serves to highlight the fact that the Menil has become one of the world’s largest repositories of drawings by Johns, thanks in part by promised gifts of art from Menil Trustees Janie C. Lee and Louisa Stude Sarofim and a bequest from David Whitney.
“The Condition of Being Here” will give visitors a deeper appreciation of the importance of drawing to Johns’s artistic practice, as it features 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.
Along with the November 3 opening date, the Menil announced that the Campaign for the Menil, which funded the development of the Menil Drawing Institute, had raised over $121 million, surpassing its original goal by more than $6 million. The campaign also supported construction of a new Energy House, expansion and enhancement of green spaces, updates and repairs to the main museum building — and improvement and refurbishment of infrastructure, as well as an increase in the endowment, enabling the Menil Collection to always remain free of charge.