Scholarship at The Menil Collection
As individuals and through their foundation, the de Menils supported art historical research on their collection and larger questions confronting the field. In 1960 they launched The Image of the Black in Western Art, a photographic archive that attempted to collect every known depiction of Africans and people from the African Diaspora in Western art, from antiquity to the twentieth century. This archive, housed at the W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University (with a duplicate at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London), has led to an ongoing publication that investigates what John de Menil called “an archaeology of race relations
– happy and unhappy.” In addition, the de Menils supported the multiple-volume catalogues raisonné of Max Ernst and René Magritte. Today the Menil Foundation continues to support scholarly research, making its extensive archives, including artists’ and other papers, available to researchers by appointment.
Research on the collection continues today by curators and scholars within and outside the institution. In 2008 the Menil published African Art, a study of more than 100 pieces in that part of the collection; another scholarly catalogue, focusing on more than 800 Byzantine metalwork objects from daily living, is in progress. Building on a long tradition of support for local art-history departments, the Menil works with institutions of higher learning in the region to support scholars. Beginning in 2007 the museum began offering fellowships underwritten by the Vivian L. Smith Foundation to advanced doctoral students from the University of Texas at Austin. The foundation hosts undergraduate interns, awarding an annual fellowship to a student in the Art History Department at Rice University. Members of the curatorial department also teach at the University of Houston and at Rice University, making available the collection and other resources to art history students.