The Menil Collection Celebrates 30th Anniversary Gala
By Jennifer Roosth Photography by Jenny Antill, David Brown and Daniel Ortiz
THE SCENE: Under a bright night sky of the last full moon before the winter solstice, art-world luminaries and patrons from Houston and around the world gathered at the Menil Collection for Luminous: The Menil Collection’s 30th Anniversary Ball. Only the fourth gala celebration at the museum since its opening in 1987, the event honored the Menil Foundation’s Chair and Life Trustee Louisa Stude Sarofim, raising more than $2.5 million in table and ticket sales to support the Menil Collection on the occasion of this anniversary milestone. Staged in an enormous tent spanning the Menil’s front lawn, the gala’s decor was inspired by Surrealist artist Max Ernst’s small moonlit scene, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (1955), a gift from the artist to Dominique and John de Menil. The painting is one symbol of the long friendship between Ernst and the de Menils after they were introduced in 1932.
THE VIBE: The vibe of the night was to honor Dominique de Menil’s vision of the importance of the arts to human existence, and to thank Louisa Stude Sarofim for her leadership over the past decade. Guests dined on a menu presented by Jackson and Company featuring pecan wood grilled lamb chops with port wine demi-glace and a special Luminous-themed dessert, each with wine pairings. Following dinner, guests were treated to a concert by Grammy Award-winning musician Angélique Kidjo, whose performance included original music as well as her interpretation of hits from the classic Talking Heads album Remain in Light, which are in fact the focus of her rapturously received current tour. To the surprise and delight of the crowd, Talking Heads’ keyboardist and guitarist Jerry Harrison joined Kidjo for several songs. Dancing followed, and museum galleries remained open until midnight for guests to enjoy.
THE CAUSE: The Menil’s Director Rebecca Rabinow welcomed the evening’s co-chairs Allison Sarofim, Leigh and Reggie Smith, and Phoebe and Bobby Tudor. She also recognized the distinguished honorary chairs in absentia: Gérard Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States; Renzo Piano, architect of the Menil Collection’s main building; and co-chair Adelaide de Menil Carpenter. Members of the de Menil family in attendance included Lois and George de Menil, Andee and Aziz Friedrich, Susan and Menil Foundation Trustee Francois de Menil and their children Sophie, Conrad, and John. A legacy of the philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, the Menil Collection opened in 1987. The museum presents regular rotations of artworks from its growing permanent collection, organizes special exhibitions and programs throughout the year, publishes scholarly books, and conducts research into the conservation of modern and contemporary art.