Collectors, patrons, art historians and curators; there has never been anyone in the art world quite like Dominique and John de Menil. As Leo Steinberg, one of the world’s foremost art historians, says, “Hers is one of the noblest and most heroic lives lived this century.”
This book will be the first biography of Dominique and John de Menil. It will tell the story of their remarkable lives and demonstrate how two individuals can raise the cultural level of an entire city to international standards. The vitality of intellectual life in Houston today—including not only The Menil Collection but also the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Contemporary Arts Museum and many other institutions and private galleries—can be linked to the de Menils. Because of their inherent sense of humility and desire for privacy, however, this book will be a revelation even for those who knew them quite well. Many have seen only fragments of their accomplishments; this biography will, for the first time, bring together all of the disparate elements and throw the full, forceful story into focus.
Dominique de Menil managed to turn her own life into a work of art, spreading her achievements out over the largest possible canvas. She had a hand in the development of some of the leading museums in the world (from the Centre Pompidou to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles) and had a profound personal connection with many artists (including Mark Rothko, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Roberto Rossellini and Andy Warhol). Her greatest influence, though, was husband John de Menil, who will play a leading role in this book. His personality pushed her forward; where she was reserved and discreet, he was completely fearless and committed to the grand gesture.
Although the lives of Dominique and John de Menil are undeniably important and have the power to inspire, the economics of the book industry mean that this biography will not achieve publication without supplementary support. Individual contributions to the Houston Artists Fund in support of this biography, which are tax-deductible, are being used for the extensive archival research, interviews and writing required for this book.
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