Media Center: ‘Double Vision’ by William Middleton

Media Center: ‘Double Vision’ by William Middleton

WHO: John and Dominique de Menil

The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars
Dominique and John de Menil
by William Middleton

WHEN: Published by Knopf March 27, 2018

WHERE: Author tour to Austin, Dallas, Houston, Maria, New Canaan, New York.

WHY: “This exhaustively researched,
satisfying slab of a book offers a thorough look
into the lives and influence of an extraordinary couple.

“Journalist Middleton’s first book is an authoritative account of the lives and patronage of 20th-century art-world power-couple Dominique and John de Menil. Both were born in France, and they married in 1931 before moving, during WWII, to Houston, Tex., where Dominique’s father, Conrad Schlumberger, had made a fortune in oil. By the 1960s, the couple had amassed a muscular collection of Western and non-Western art, which, in 1987, became the holdings of the Menil Collection, housed in a museum designed by Renzo Piano.
“As Middleton dutifully shows, the couple’s commitment to art and philanthropy defined their lives. In addition to sponsoring projects that included the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Rothko Chapel and exhibition spaces on university campuses in Houston, they supported innumerable postwar artists. They were also keenly interested in human rights abroad and civil rights at home, and used their wealth to amplify minority voices by funding initiatives and exhibitions celebrating African-American art. In their travels, the couple consorted with Pope Paul VI and the Dalai Lama, among other world leaders, but Middleton emphasizes their disarming humility and humanity throughout.” –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“A treat for lovers of modern art.” –KIRKUS REVIEWS

“This authoritative biography correctly argues for the crucial role that patrons continue to play in shaping the art world and relays and supports the Menils’ inspiring belief in the essential necessity of art for the common good.” –Maggie Taft, BOOKLIST


The sweltering summer afternoon of June 4, 1987, was the official opening of the Menil Collection, and seventy-nine-year-old Dominique de Menil stood in front of her new museum. Her
adopted hometown of Houston, Texas, had seen oil prices plummet in the mid-1980s as the rest of the country recovered from recession. With 70 percent of the city’s wealth tied to the oil industry, Houston construction stagnated, unemployment soared, banks failed. At elegant La Colombe d’Or, a few blocks from the museum, the price of a three-course lunch had been slashed to the going rate for a barrel of crude, which had gone as low as $9.06. The inauguration of the Menil Collection at this particular moment only further underscored the staggering artistic, civic, and philanthropic contributions that Dominique and her husband, John de Menil, had been making to the city for nearly half a century. Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Fitzgerald & Associates, the building was a bold, graceful two-story structure of white steel, clear glass, and gray cypress siding with an interior of pristine white walls, glistening black wood floors, and walls of windows that opened onto lush tropical gardens. Inside was one of the largest and most important private collections of art assembled in the twentieth century: Paleolithic bone carvings, Cycladic idols, Byzantine relics, African totems, and Oceanic effigies as well as modernist masterpieces from Cézanne, Picasso, Braque, Magritte, Ernst, Calder, Rothko, Rauschenberg, Warhol, and Johns.

Author photoMedia Resources:
About the book and author | Author tour | Download the jacket | Download the author photo

Knopf. With 32 pages of color illustrations
and 134 B&W images. 760 pages. $40
ISBN 978-0-375-41543-2

To interview the author, contact:
Katie Schoder | 212-572-2103 |