It was with great sadness that we learned of Cy Twombly’s death last week. With him goes an elegance and eccentricity, a marvelous sense of freedom and irreverence, and a generous understanding of history, in which the ancient myths meet the modern fluidity of today.
One of the great installations of Twombly’s art can be seen at his eponymous gallery at the Menil Collection, in Houston, Texas, which today is more relevant than ever. Commissioned by Dominique de Menil, the Cy Twombly Gallery opened in 1995 as the result of a collaboration between the artist, the Menil, and Dia Art Foundation. It stands today as a reflection of our institutions’ common values: a belief in the primacy of artwork and a commitment to the artist’s intention. With works contributed by all partners, Twombly himself led the planning of the building’s design and installation, and worked intimately with architect Renzo Piano and Paul Winkler, Director of the Menil at that time.
What emerged is unique in the world: the depth of the presentation, the spacing and measure of the installation, the light and materiality of the building, and the permanent presentation all reflect an uncompromising commitment to maintaining Twombly’s legacy. The Gallery bears the trace of the artist’s involvement at every phase, and houses an astonishing selection of his paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, organized thematically and chronologically. They include:
• Six “grey ground” or “blackboard” paintings;
• Five paintings with graphic notations on white ground, made in 1959 in Lexington, Virgnia, where Twombly was born;
• Vividly colored canvases painted in Italy in 1961;
• Five paintings dedicated to the Romantic poet Rainer Maria Rilke from 1985;
• The untitled “green paintings” that were exhibited at the 1988 Venice Biennale, and for which Twomby won the Prize d’Or;
• And Untitled (Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor), 1994, a monumental triptych which measures more than 13’ high and 53’ long.
“The strength and clarity of the entire ensemble–works of art, building, and presentation,” said Paul Winkler, “provide an opportunity to relish the work of an artist of our time in its fullest dimensions.” We hope you will have a chance to visit the Cy Twombly Gallery soon, and join us in remembering one of the great artists of our time.