“I CALL MYSELF COVETOUS,” the late Dominique de Menil once told this magazine. “I have an enormous appetite for what- ever turns me on.” Luckily for her adopted city of Houston, what she craved most was art of the highest caliber: When the Menil Collection opened as its own museum in 1987—with a Renzo Piano building to house the masterpieces amassed by Dominique and her husband, John—it was heralded as one of the world’s premier private collections. Now, twenty years later, the namesake treasury is putting the couple’s acquisitive bent on display with an exhibit of pieces they held dear.
To fully appreciate “A Modern Patronage: de Menil Gifts to American and European Museums,” it first helps to understand the woman behind it. In 1941 Dominique, an heiress to the Schlumberger oil-equipment fortune, fled with John and their young children from Nazi-occupied Paris to Texas. Though it was a priest of the family’s acquaintance who introduced her to fine art, it was Houston’s cultural shortcomings that moved her to start collecting. “There were no galleries to speak of, no dealers worth the name . . . That is why I developed this physical need to acquire,” she said. And acquire she did. The Menil Collection harbors 16,000 items: extraordinary antiquities, medieval and Byzantine works, African and Oceanian pieces, and a vast array of twentieth-century offerings with a considerable stash of Surrealist art.
But with this hunger also came an astonishing generosity, and the de Menils were committed to sharing their artistic wealth. Numerous purchases ended up as gifts scattered across the globe, bestowed to a host of museums. It is these crown jewels that now represent the heart of the exhibit: Brought together for the first time, they’ve been culled from near (as close as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Museum of Modern Art, in New York) and far (Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou and Musée du Quai Branly). “Even most of our staff didn’t realize that some of the greatest pieces the de Menils ever collected were given away,” says director Josef Helfenstein. “So basically all of the loans will be big surprises.”
Some will be more revelatory than others, like Jackson Pollock’s The Deep, which Dominique presented to the Pompidou in 1976 in honor of John’s passing three years earlier. An oversized canvas, it is a critical example of the artist’s last period and a noted departure from the drip paintings we’ve come to associate with him. (You can imagine its lender’s hesitation to part with it even for this occasion.) But there are plenty of other knockouts as well: Andy Warhol’s Electric Chair series, a four-foot-wide ceremonial bowl from Africa, Man Ray’s portrait of the Marquis de Sade, and an entire roomful of Jean Tinguely’s delicate sculptural machines.
The show’s true strength lies in what these works represent, namely, the de Menils’ larger passions: Many pieces reflect their devotion to civil rights; others capture their belief in art as an expression of human experience. “A Modern Patronage” certainly constitutes a noteworthy homecoming of sorts. But the eclectic assemblage is all the more significant for its compelling look into the psyche of its insatiable owners. Jun 8–Sep 16. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400, menil.org
The Filter: Events
The evolution of the human figure in art is wor- thy of years of study. For those of us with less time, an exceptional capsule collection featuring some of the more indelible images of the twentieth century allows for a succinct yet encyclopedic overview of art’s most stimulating subject. The curators behind “The Mirror and the Mask: Portraiture in the Age of Picasso,” which is coming to the Kimbell Art Museum this month, have managed to cull from an infinite pool and still give us a neatly chronological synopsis of the major breakthroughs of the form. Pablo Picasso serves as an obvious anchor for the nearly one hundred works, which date from 1890 to 1980. The Spaniard is, of course, practically synonymous with the portrait; the faces of his subjects spring quickly to mind (see his Harlequin With a Mirror, above), and the progression of his style typifies the century’s lust for experimentation. But the crux of “The Mirror and the Mask” is that the artists here (from Paul Cézanne and Amedeo Modigliani to Frida Kahlo and Francis Bacon), unlike their predecessors, are not beholden to their sitters, and their resulting creations are not conservative commissions but avant-garde reflections of historical events and artistic movements (Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, and so on). As its title suggests, the exhibit begins with intimate self-portraits—there’s Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch staring back at you—and moves to less precise representations that often question identity and distort reality (picture Salvador Dalí’s Portrait of Pablo Picasso in the 21st Century, a bust with ram’s horns and two tongues that seems to be melting off its pedestal). To comb through all the finer, but no less significant, ideas in between, which “The Mirror and the Mask” delineates so precisely, you’ll need to set aside the time to make multiple trips through this survey. The nuances of the human face were never so fascinating. Jun 17–Sep 16. 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-332-8451, kimbellart.org
There will be no 800-number voting, no professional hair and makeup, and no Simon Cowell at The Big Squeeze, an accordion competition hosted by Texas Folklife this month. But the young players (28 is the age limit) vying for the $1,000 top prize don’t care. To them, this is as good as it gets. This is Accordion Idol. The inaugural field of wannabes has already been narrowed down to seven semifinalists, and after they play two songs of their choice for four judges, only three of these amateurs will survive to take center stage at the Miller Outdoor Theatre. And like that other contest, this one will hinge on audience response, though the judges will make the ultimate call. (An added bonus: The final evening will include headlining performances by zydeco player Chubby Carrier and conjunto legend Mingo Saldívar.) Austin-based director Hector Galán will be filming behind the scenes for a documentary. The accordion is ready for its close-up. Jun 1 & 2. Various locations, 512-441-9255, texasfolklife.org
Austin, Dallas, Grand Prairie, Houston, San Antonio, The Woodlands
It’s a scalper’s favorite time of year: summer concert season. No matter what beats you groove on (or what decade you were born in), there is always some good reason to part with $50, $60—heck, even upward of $400—to spend an evening standing shoulder to shoulder with a few thousand strangers, getting lost in the music and remembering that rush you got when you heard Stevie Nicks sing “Rhiannon” for the first time back in 1975. (A heads up: She’ll be making stops in Dallas and the Woodlands this month with indie crooner Chris Isaak.) And every year it seems as if one or another of your beloved groups has decided to reunite. Who are you to snub this clear act of benevolence? It’s time to peroxide what little hair you have left: The Police will be making beautiful rock music together again in Dallas and Houston. Of course, these days it’s more about escorting your teenager and ten of her friends to these blockbuster gigs so they can see John Mayer up close and scream at hearing-loss-inducing decibels. (The shaggy-haired bluesman—and maybe even his girlfriend, Jessica Simpson—is coming to Dallas, San Antonio, and the Woodlands.) On the other hand, you could be caught in a sweaty mosh pit of skinny-hipped boys wearing more eye-liner than Joan Jett, at the Fall Out Boy show. (The young rockers bring their punk antics to Dallas, San Antonio, and the Woodlands. You’ve been warned.) So what if you want something a little less hectic? The slow-jam specialist herself, Norah Jones, is making four stops in the state that reared her (Austin, Grand Prairie, Houston, San Antonio). Though her pleasant ballads have been batted down by critics as nothing more than bland background music, watching her onstage feels like stumbling onto a private rehearsal. And as some 14 million albums sold in the past five years proves, less is often more. Stevie Nicks. Jun 1: Smirnoff Music Centre, 1818 First Ave, Dallas; 214-421-1111; hob.com/venues/concerts/smirnoff. Jun 2: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr, the Woodlands; 281-363-3300; pavilion.woodlandscenter.org. The Police. Jun 26 & 27: American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave, Dallas; 214-222-3687; americanairlinescenter.com. Jun 29: Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, Houston; 866-446-8849; houstontoyotacenter.com.John Mayer. Jun 22: Smirnoff Music Centre, 1818 First Ave, Dallas; 214-421-1111; hob.com/venues/concerts/smirnoff. Jun 23: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr, the Woodlands; 281-363-3300; pavilion.woodlandscenter.org. Jun 24: AT&T Center, AT&T Center Pkwy & E. Houston, San Antonio; 210-224-9600; attcenter.com. Fall Out Boy. Jun 18: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr, the Woodlands; 281-363-3300; pavilion.woodlandscenter.org. Jun 19: Smirnoff Music Centre, 1818 First Ave, Dallas; 214-421-1111; hob.com/venues/concerts/smirnoff. Jun 20: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 16765 Lookout Rd, San Antonio; 210-657-3300; vwatx.com. Norah Jones. Jun 11: Nokia Theatre at Grand Prairie, 1001 NextStage Dr, Grand Prairie; 972-647-5700; nokialivedfw.com. Jun 12: Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana, Houston; 713-629-3700; joneshall.org. Jun 15: The Backyard, 13101 Hwy 71W, Austin; 512-263-4146; thebackyard.net. Jun 16: Majestic Theatre, 224 E. Houston, San Antonio; 210-226-3333; majesticempire.com
Movin’ On Up
A new chapter in El Paso’s history is being written—or, more accurately, developed—as you read this. A multipronged plan to build up the unremarkable downtown area got a big kick start this past Halloween, when the city council approved an ambitious proposal that calls for Main Street—style shopping corridors with major retail anchors, lofts and town houses, an event arena, and a large marketplace for local vendors. The goal is for the face-lift to be completed by 2015, but one long-standing institution just couldn’t wait till then: The El Paso Museum of History, which has been languishing on the (too far) east side of town since 1974, opens its expanded digs this month. It was originally known as the Cavalry Museum, but its focus eventually grew to include a range of materials dating from the 1500’s, when the Spanish first settled in the region, to the present, and its name changed accordingly in 1980. Today, it remains a modest, city-run operation that relies almost completely on donations to bolster its collections (everything from blacksmithing and carpentry tools to nineteenth- and twentieth-century clothing). Largely overlooked—a former director called it the city’s “invisible museum”—the EPMH has been losing out on key artifacts to better-endowed museums for years. (The Colt revolvers that once belonged to John Wesley Hardin, the outlaw who met his untimely death here in 1895, were too pricey for the EPMH; instead they’re at a private Western museum in Los Angeles.) But no more—or so the thinking goes. The EPMH’s new location in El Paso’s budding cultural district is more than double the size of its old home and is equipped with high-tech climate controls that will better preserve its fragile relics. Two of the museum’s permanent collections (“El Paso A to Z” and “The Changing Pass,” which highlight the city’s culture and geography, respectively) will be open to the public immediately, but a third (“Las Villitas,” which will focus on various neighborhoods) is set to open in two or three years. By raising its profile and moving into an upgraded facility, the EPMH hopes to receive accreditation from the American Association of Museums and, in time, persuade its donors to give more money and its peers to lend pieces for rotating exhibits. We’ll have to wait and see how it unfolds, but for those El Pasoans roaming through the EPMH in, say, 2057, this renaissance will be an important notch on the city’s historical time line. Jun 16. 510 N. Santa Fe, 915-351-3588, elpasotexas.gov/history
In honor of Free Fishing Day—June 2—Texas Parks and Wildlife is waiving all license requirements, so grab your rod and tackle box and head to the nearest body of water. Clinics, tournaments, and kid-friendly activities are planned at sites across the state. Head to Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway to cast your lines on Lake Theo for largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, and sunfish; children should bring their lucky lures because a fishing derby is in the works. Or strike out to Lake Texana State Park and let a ranger teach you how to cast and how to identify various fish species (bait and cane poles will be provided); afterward, stop by the nature center to make fish-related art projects. These are but two options. To find out what’s happening at your favorite fishing hole, see the full list at tpwd.state.tx.us. (Note: You can continue to fish without a license at all state parks through August 31. All other public bodies of water will, however, require a license.) Jun 2. Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway, 3.5 miles north of Texas Hwy 86 in Quitaque on FM 1065; 806-455-1492. Lake Texana State Park, 46 Park Road 1, 6.5 miles southeast of Edna; 361-782-5718; tpwd.state.tx.us
Last year’s inaugural T-Bone Walker Blues Fest stretched into a ten-hour marathon with an array of musicians—from Keb’ Mo’ to Kenny Wayne Shepherd—bending strings in honor of the first American guitar hero. Walker, who revolutionized the blues with his electric sounds in the forties, is most often associated with Oak Cliff, the Dallas neighborhood he moved to as a child. But it’s only fitting that Linden, his birthplace, wants to solidify its claim to the showman as well. This second musical memorial will take place at the intimate Music City Texas Theater and will span two days on indoor and outdoor stages. With the blessing of Walker’s family, a couple dozen acts will come to pay homage: Betty Lewis and the Executives, the Bluebirds, Gary “Whitey Johnson” Nicholson, Dee Dee Williams, and Bugs Henderson and the Shuffle Kings, among others. Just as Walker’s inimitable style has trickled down through generations, inspiring such greats as Jimi Hendrix, B. B. King, and Eric Clapton, it appears as though his blues fest will only grow from here. Jun 15 & 16. 108 N. Legion, 903-756-9934 or 903-756-7774, tbonewalkerbluesfest.com
Texas won’t be hosting the Olympic Games any time soon (both Dallas and Houston lost bids for the 2012 Games, and H-town was denied again in the run for 2016). But the state can make one Olympic-sized boast: It is home to the country’s largest internationally sanctioned shooting range. In 2005 the Hill Country Shooting Sports Center, located about sixty miles northwest of San Antonio, was designated as an official Olympic training site. The 140-acre HCSSC has five skeet fields and three international trap ranges and will soon have a 35,000-square-foot air-gun hall. In May 2006 more than three hundred athletes from fifty countries met to compete in the World Cup (the only other venues to have hosted such an honorable occasion are in China, Egypt, and Germany). The range will be in the spotlight again this month as marksmen from around the country compete in skeet, trap, and double trap events to earn a spot on the national team during the USA Shooting National Championships. The sharpshooters will all have a singular goal in their crosshairs: ultimately making it onto the 2008 Olympic team, which will be selected here next spring. Who knew that the road to Beijing goes through Kerrville? Jun 16—24. 1886 Cypress Creek Rd, 830-995-5118, shootingandhunting.net
Voice of Experience
“I’ve been trying to bring him in for eight years,” says San Antonio Opera’s general and artistic director Mark Richter of the world’s preeminent tenor, Plácido Domingo. Richter’s efforts—“It was a game of who knows whom,” he says—will finally reap tremendous dividends this month when the much-sought-after star returns to the city for a single performance. The 66-year-old, whose voice has lost little luster since his last Alamo City appearance, in 1986, will be singing selections from a wide range of genres: opera arias, of course, but also Broadway hits, popular Latin songs (think “Bésame Mucho”), and the traditional Spanish zarzuela music he grew up with. (One hopes the 65-piece orchestra that will be backing him can keep pace.) A young up-and-coming Argentinean soprano, Virginia Tola, will play off Domingo’s velvety tenor in several duets, and a local mariachi band, Los Galleros, will join him onstage for the grand finale. Though Domingo’s schedule is tireless and his appetite for new roles unquenchable—he’s brought 124 characters to life, more than any peer, and has plans for more—his physical limits occasionally catch up with him (a hoarse voice caused him to cancel a recent Lisbon concert at the last minute). Domingo’s personal motto may be “If I rest, I rust,” but fans worldwide are all too aware that the King of Opera’s last performance is on the horizon. “This concert is larger than our opera company, larger than the city,” says Richter. “It is definitely an occasion, especially now during the latter part of his career. I doubt he’ll ever come back to do a solo concert here.” (Read an interview with Plácido Domingo.) Jun 19. Alamodome, 100 Montana; 210-225-5972; lyricoperasa.com