Michael Heizer’s “Isolated Mass/Circumflex (#2)” (1968–72), an earth sculpture embedded into the front lawn of the Menil Collection in Houston. (Photo: The Menil Collection)
In 1945, while on a business trip to New York, John de Menil picked up a souvenir—a dreamy little Cézanne watercolor sketch—and a drawing collection was born (the purplish pink mountain scene soon had good company in works by the likes of Picasso and Magritte). More than 60 years and 1,200 drawings later, the Menil Collection established the Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center, “dedicated solely to the collection, exhibition, and study of modernist drawing, including the medium’s role in contemporary artistic practice.” Now the museum is adding a separate facility on its Houston campus to house the growing drawing collection, and today announced a shortlist of contenders to design it: Tatiana Bilbao (Mexico City), David Chipperfield Architects (London), Johnston Marklee (Los Angeles), and SANAA (Tokyo).
“The Menil’s campus is one of the world’s most cherished cultural landscapes. We intend to move forward with respect to what exists, preserving and nurturing its spirit as we move forward in the Menil’s tradition of commissioning exceptional architecture,” said Leslie Elkins Sasser, chair of the Menil’s architecture selection committee, in a statement issued this morning. “Each of the four firms we have selected for the short list, after months of research, travel and discussion, have the potential to achieve a remarkable addition—for our campus, for our city of Houston, and for the many visitors from around the world.” Despite his London HQ, Chipperfield may have something of a home-court advantage, as he recently created the well-received master site plan for the Menil campus. A final selection is expected in June.