If you were lucky enough to be around in 1987 when The Menil Collection opened its doors as a "gift to the people of Houston," you may remember the exhilaration that event inspired.
Collectors Dominique and John de Menil gave the city an art museum unlike any other: intimate, neighborly, unpretentious and spiritual in the way that the artwork was presented – somehow, the space encouraged personal connections between artworks and visitor. Over the years – decades – Houston came to cherish the museum which also won praise the world over for its architectural design. It does indeed feel like "our" museum. We love that Beyoncé gets a private tour when she's in town. It's as uniquely Houston as Frenchy's or the Astrodome.
Art lovers and Montrose strollers were surprised and concerned when the museum announced that it was closing for several months to upgrade systems and redo the floors. But, at a preview of the renovated museum held Tuesday, all of the awe, beauty and emotion that amazed at the original museum opening in the 80's returned. Stella definitely got her groove back.
Walking around the refurbished galleries seems familiar, but more expansive and brighter. Shades are gone from many windows – the neighborhood outside shines through. Artworks have more room to breathe, to speak with the works around them. Individual artists are given their own space: a forest of Max Ernst totems and paintings now leads to the Surrealism galleries. A room just for Rothko, for Picasso, for Klee, on and on. Each space is a jewel box, and each artwork is carefully positioned to sparkle.
For the next year, rotating exhibitions will highlight all museum collections, newer acquisitions and promised gifts. Exhibits will change, but for the next year it's all Menil all the time.
How fortunate we are!
The Menil officially reopens this Saturday, September 22, at 11 a.m. Catch a sneak preview of the new galleries on Arts InSight, Friday night at 8:30 p.m. on TV8.