The Menil Collection opened as a stand-alone public museum in 1987. Before then, it was the private collection of John and Dominique de Menil.
“They collected antiquities, so we have prehistoric to the present day. But it's not kind of a comprehensive collection. It's in certain areas of interest,” says Tommy Napier, an associate director of communications for the Menil Collection “So we have an amazing collection of African art, Pacific Northwest coast, Pacific Islands. And then we have a really large collection of modern and contemporary art.”
That includes a couple of pieces by Andy Warhol.
“Andy Warhol was a really important artists to the de Menils. So you'll see Warhol Soup Can, you will see his Camouflage Last Supper, which is currently on view in the foyer,” Napier says.
He says being in a residential neighborhood in the heart of Houston makes this a different kind of museum experience.
“And so it's a different type of way to experience art,” Napier says. “We believe at the Menil that everyone has the right to live with art. So what you see in our neighborhood, are residential bungalows that people can rent. We have parks and green spaces that are opened on to dusk for everyone to enjoy. So you really have a neighborhood quality.”
The Menil Collection is about reflection. It's a tranquil place. It’s a quiet place, and even a refuge for some.
Maybe the best thing of all—admission is free.
“By being free. By being accessible on the street. By being in a neighborhood. By having a mix of art and green spaces," Napier says. "Ride your bike. Bring your dog. Bring a blanket. Bring a book, you could really have a full day of life here.”