“A Modern Patronage: de Menil Gifts to European and American Museums”

Sponsorship by TFAA and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy

On view from June 8 through September 16, 2007, the exhibition features works by Max Ernst, René Magritte, Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, Jean Tinguely, and African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian art. The exhibition opens on the Menil Collection’s 20th Anniversary date.


HOUSTON, May 18, 2007 — A MODERN PATRONAGE: de Menil Gifts to American and European Museums continues the Menil’s celebration of its 20th anniversary.

Organized by Menil director Josef Helfenstein, this exhibition brings together for the first time approximately 45 major works of art that John and Dominique de Menil donated to museums in Europe and America, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Musée du quai Branly, Paris (formerly the L’Musée del Homme); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA); the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH); as well as The Menil Collection (which opened to the public on June 8, 1987).

“We feel very close to the Museum of Modern Art, and we like to give you the kind of things in which we believe,” John de Menil wrote in December 1955 to Alfred H. Barr, Jr., founding director of MoMA. The letter accompanied one of the de Menils’ first gifts to a museum in December 1955 — and set the stage for many subsequent decades of generosity. De Menil’s words revealed his deep belief in the power of the primacy of art, a philosophy of intuitive collecting and giving that he shared with Dominique (1908-1997). A MODERN PATRONAGE is more than a reunion of works of art or homage to their donors. In planning the exhibition, said Josef Helfenstein, “a fascinating story emerged. Bringing together pieces of the puzzle provided an opportunity to understand the philosophy that guided the de Menils’ approach to patronage. I hope this exhibition helps to illustrate that the Menil embodies the founders’ open-door approach to thinking about the possibilities of art.”

Beginning with works purchased as early as the 1940s, the exhibition presents attests to the de Menils’   interest in establishing a conversations between significant 20th-century artists ; — including Max Ernst, René Magritte, Man Ray, Mark Rothko, Jean Tinguely, Wols, Lee Bontecou, Jackson Pollock, Claes Oldenburg, Larry Rivers, and Andy Warhol , — and important selections of African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian art.

Accompanying the exhibition is a fully illustrated catalogue, with essays by Marcia Brennan, Alfred Pacquement, and Ann Temkin, exploring the complex set of circumstances that inspired the development and international reach of the de Menils’ artistic vision. Pacquement, the director of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, discusses Dominique de Menil’s pioneering role in bringing modern American Art to France in the 1970s.

In honor of her late husband, Dominique gave to the Pompidou at its 1977 inauguration a monumental Abstract Expressionist work by Jackson Pollock, The Deep (1953). Atypical of Pollock’s well-known drip paintings, with the work features a central composition that verges on the figural, its the unique and dramatic nature of the work led leading MoMA curator Frank O’Hara to describe the painting as “a work which contemporary aesthetic had cried out for … one of the provocative images of our time, an abyss of glamour encroached upon by a flood of innocence.”

The couple’s belief in individuals and objects vision led them to make deep their commitments to particular artists, including, famously, Surrealists such as Magritte and Ernst, and Jean Tinguely. Visiting the Swiss sculptor’s 1964 show at Alexandre Iolas’s Paris gallery, John was so inspired by what he saw, and heard — a cacophonous gathering of spurting and rocking machines consisting of rubber belts and electric motors — that he purchased every work on display for the MFAH. A selection of these Meta-Mecanique sculptures will be assembled for A MODERN PATRONAGE.

Demonstrating a truly modern patronage, the de Menils’ role as collectors transcends the works of art held by The Menil Collection, and this exhibition honors their international scope and presence.

“Xavier Le Roy – Self Unfinished” at DiverseWorks

April 18 and 19, 2007

Post-performance reception hosted by TFAA and its presenting partners Global Quality Imports, Inc. and Andre’s Pastry Shop and Café

Xavier Le Roy was a researcher in molecular and cellular biology when he decided, at the age of 27, to dedicate himself to dance. DiverseWorks presents Le Roy’s monumental work Self Unfinished (1998), in which he elevates the deconstruction of the body to a level of poetry. In an empty space and using a minimum of theatrical means, the choreographer-dancer unveils the thousand bodies hidden behind the daily image of the human body. With humor, irony, and extreme rigor Xavier Le Roy invites us to a continuously changing presentation of strangely familiar deformations.

Celebration and Support of The Menil Collection’s 20th Anniversary Year

Sponsorship by the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts and its presenting partners Schlumberger and Total E&P

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Menil Collection, a masked ball will take place on April 20th: a festive evening of masks, art, fine cuisine, music, and dancing with the extraordinary participation of architect Renzo Piano and His Excellency the Ambassador of France, Mr. Jean-David Levitte.

Robert Rauschenberg Exhibition at The Menil Collection

February 23 – May 13, 2007

Sponsorship by TFAA and its presenting partners Schlumberger and Total E&P

By the time Robert Rauschenberg completed the first of his Cardboards in 1971, he had already been breaking ground as an artist for twenty years. He first gained international acclaim in 1958 when he exhibited twenty of his Combines at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City. By amalgamating an unprecedented variety of discarded objects, materials, and artistic techniques, the Combines not only provided the first significant break with the tenets of Abstract Expressionism, but also introduced a new type of art object, neither sculpture nor painting, neither abstract nor representational.

The Cardboards present a continuation of the found-object tradition and the exploration of the boundaries between painting and sculpture that the Combines began. The artist’s approach here, however, was radically transformed. Lacking the palate of refuse provided by New York City, Rauschenberg, who had recently moved to Captiva, Florida, turned his attention to what he discovered in his new environ. While Rauschenberg had included any and all materials in his Combines, in the Cardboards, he confined himself to only one: discarded cardboard boxes. Rauschenberg tore, flattened, bent, and cut the boxes that constitute this series; however, he resisted otherwise embellishing their surfaces. Thus, the stains, tears, dents, and marks that enliven the compositions result from, and attest to, the history of the objects themselves. He managed in this series to blend the inferior with the precious, to bring to the surface the hidden “cultural” qualities of this ordinary material by transforming it into great art.

Inspired by his new material, Rauschenberg produced a number of other series that developed the original concept in different ways. Working with the printers at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, Rauschenberg produced Cardbirds (1971-1972), a series of faux cardboard box constructions using silkscreen on cardboard. Later he collaborated with Graphicstudio at the University of South Florida to create the series Tampa Clay Pieces (1972-1973). In both of these editions, the look of ordinary cardboard boxes belies the sophisticated techniques developed by the artist and the printmakers to create them.

In the Venetian’s series (1972-1973), Rauschenberg revisited the practice of working with materials in their found state. The simple assemblages

are poetic impressions of Venice, a city whose decaying beauty struck a chord with Rauschenberg’s own aesthetic. As he had in the Cardboards, he continued to let the history of the objects inform the content and aura of the artworks, but using a wider variety of objects, he expanded the three-dimensionality of the works. Inspired by a book on Egypt, Rauschenberg created the Early Egyptians series (1973-1974). He began with the simplified, minimal look of the Cardboards, but rather than flattening the boxes, he left them intact, coating them in glue, then rolling them in sand or wrapping them in gauze like mummies.

Day-Glo paint applied to their backs casts a soft steady light onto the wall behind them when they are properly installed and lit.

Despite Rauschenberg’s fame there are still important aspects and periods of his work that are practically unknown, even to specialists. For this reason, The Menil Collection decided to organize “Robert Rauschenberg: Cardboards and Related Pieces.” In October 1971, the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York presented “Cardboards and Cardbirds,” but since then the series has largely been ignored. “Cardboards and Related Pieces” is the first museum exhibition to focus exclusively on this key yet unappreciated period in Rauschenberg’s career. The exhibition is curated by Director Josef Helfenstein and accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

French Baroque Music Festival

February 16, 2007: “Pygmalion” by Mercury Baroque

Sponsorship by TFAA and its presenting partners the Levant Foundation and the Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston


Mercury Baroque will present the fully staged opera-ballet Pygmalion by J.P. Rameau and a suite from Les Indes Galantes on Friday, Feb. 16, 2007 at 8 p.m. at the Wortham Center, Cullen Theater, sponsored in part by The Texan-French Alliance for the Arts.



February 18, 2007: Ars Lyrica‘s “Portraits d’amour” at the MFAH

Sponsorship by TFAA and its presenting partners the Levant Foundation and the Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston


In Ars Lyrica’s “Portraits d’amour,” the group collaborated with Musiqa, Houston’s hip ensemble for new music, with works on the perennial subject of love from a wide sampling of French composers, including Couperin, Messiaen, Ravel, and Clérambault.

The family concert took place at 4 pm Sunday, February 18 in the Brown Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. It featured Karol Bennett, soprano; Rod Waters, piano; Colin St. Martin, Baroque flute; Barrett Sills, viola da gamba; and Richard Savino, theorbo and Baroque guitar.


“Take a Walk on the Art Side”

Sponspored by the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts and PaperCity Magazine



A cocktail reception for the cultural community in Houston at the Barbara Davis Complex

Live music by David Caceres Trio

Self-guided “Art Walk”

Barbara Davis Gallery                  Robert Kelly

Peel Gallery                                    Begoña Lopez: Pixel Plexi

Anya Tish Gallery                         Lalla Essaydi: Converging Territories

Joan Wich Gallery                        Lynn Randolph: Magic Coast

Wade Wilson Art                          New paintings by Tom Berg, Alan Ebnother,
Danielle Frankenthal, Joseph Marioni,
Jill Moser, Shawn Wallis

Tart Café & Wade Wilson Art    Sam Gainer


Cultural Week “Lyon Via Houston”

From the 21st to the 29th of April, 2005, the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts and the French Consulate in Houston presented a premiere artistic week, “Lyon Via Houston.” Choreographers, dancers, musicians, directors, and writers were carefully selected in cooperation with the prestigious institutions of Les Subsistances and La Villa Gillet of Lyon and Houston’s most prestigious artistic venues.

A Houston audience of all ages enjoyed the performances, lectures, and exhibits that were widely covered by the French and Texan media (Le Figaro, Houston Chronicle, Paper City Magazine, Fox News 26, PBS, KUHF, KPFT, and others.)

The Menil Collection: M. Winckler (lecture and book signing)

The Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston: A. Bublex (visual artist)

DiverseWorks: Jean-Baptiste André (performing artist)

Main Street Theater: Turak (puppetry)

Wortham Center, Brown Theater: M. Pisani and A. Mondot (choreographer)




For articles and press releases, please click here.

Launching Gala of the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts

The Consulate General of France in Texas is pleased to announce the creation of the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts (TFAA), a fund dedicated to the promotion of cultural exchange between France and Texas. This non-profit organization will finance its activities through the generous support of donors who are committed to support performances and lectures by French writers and artists traveling to Texas and by Texan institutions and artists traveling to France.

The Alliance will organize a Houston-based week of contemporary performances and exhibits by visual artists, choreographers, musicians, directors and writers from Lyon and the Rhone Alpes Region, April 21st-29th, 2005. In 2006, this will be mirrored by gifted Texans traveling to France.

Honorary chairs Lynn Wyatt and French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte as well as gala chairwomen Françoise Djerejian, Claudia Hatcher, Donatella Benckenstein, Véronique Prentice and Hélène Simonneau will host “Une Soirée à Lyon via Houston,” an elegant gala evening to be held in the grand Ballroom at the Hilton Hotel of the Americas on January 18, 2005 from 6:30 to 10:30pm. Representatives of the cities of Lyon and Houston, elected representatives and artists will be among the distinguished guests.

Famous Chef Henriroux of La Pyramide restaurant in Vienne (France) who holds two stars Michelin, will come to Houston to partner with Chef Dessemond of the Hilton of Americas to create a delightful menu for the gala.

The gala will gather donors, sponsors and supporters as well as representatives from the Houston institutions participating in the artistic program scheduled for April 2005: the Menil collection, the Blaffer Gallery, the art museum of the University of Houston, the Society for the Performing Arts, DiverseWorks, Stages Theater, Inprint and Da Camera of Houston.