Photo Post: The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas

Residential street with large oak trees creating a canopy overhead
Sul Ross Street

I spent three years living and working in Spain as an English language assistant, which meant I had to travel from Dallas down to Houston three summers in a row to apply for a student visa to live in Spain. After my third and final trip to the Spanish consulate, I played tourist for a bit and visited the Menil Collection, an art museum not too far from the Hostelling International hostel in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood.

Museum hallway with plain white walls and curved ceiling tiles letting sunlight in
Main hallway

This free museum hiding amongst the shade trees of Montrose redeemed my nerve-wracking visit to the consulate and filled some time before I had to take the Megabus back to Dallas. When I returned to Houston for a proper visit this Memorial Day, the Menil was at the top of my list.

Modern art-style mobile featuring multiple black triangles, hanging from the ceiling
Alexander Calder mobile

This minimalist museum is only one floor tall, which helps it blend into the neighborhood of single-family houses. Inside, concrete louvers in the ceiling let natural sunlight filter in—while keeping out the worst of that hot Texas sun. The museum’s small, but broad, collection of art spans the centuries, from ancient Greek civilization to modern art, and from North America clear across to Africa. There’s a special focus on surrealism here, especially works by Henri Matisse.

White magnolia flower with dark green leaves with light circles of bokeh behind
Magnolia in bloom

The whole experience continues outside, where venerable oak trees extend their boughs across the streets and magnolias offer nooks to lean up against and read a book beneath their flowers. Plus, most of the houses and bungalows that surround the museum were bought up and painted a warm gray, creating a uniform look for the entire museum campus.

Two-story brick house with gray walls and white trim
Gray house

How to get there

The Menil Collection is located on 1533 Sul Ross Street in Houston’s hip Montrose neighborhood, just west of St. Thomas University. Because it’s only six (shaded) blocks south of all the action on Westheimer Road, I recommend taking the 82 bus from downtown along Westheimer and walking here; alternatively, you could ride the Red Line light rail south to Wheeler Station and transfer to the 25 bus that runs along Richmond Avenue to the south.

For more information, visit the museum’s website.

What was your favorite photo from this post? Have you been to an art museum that was founded with a private collection before? Talk about it below in the discussion thread!

Houston, May 2019

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