PaperCity Magazine

September 2017 - Houston

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Page 125 of 195

124 The question at hand: Have you completed the de Menil biography? The manuscript is finished; we are now working on the final edit. It will be published next spring by Alfred A. Knopf. The title: Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil. How big will it be? Texas sized! It is not yet known how large the finished book will actually be. We are trying to trim right now, but it will probably be more than 800 pages. What sparked this volume? We have to blame it on France. I lived and worked in Paris for a decade and have long been sensitive to the language, the culture, the history. And I had known that there was this interesting French connection to Houston ... The plum assignment. In the fall of 2000, I was again living in New York and working for Harper's Bazaar. I came to Houston to do a story on the city, which was the first time that I had seen what the de Menils had created. I visited the Rothko Chapel, The Menil Collection, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, and Richmond Hall, the permanent installation of light sculpture by Dan Flavin. I saw the one- and two- story bungalows that surrounded the museum, all painted the same shade of gray. Like many, I was astounded by the quality of the art and the almost sacred power of what had been created in this little neighborhood. The most potent experience took place at the de Menil house on San Felipe Road in River Oaks, with its modernist architecture by Philip Johnson and its voluptuous interior by Charles James. That visit was not even three years after Dominique de Menil had died, so the house was essentially as it was when she and her husband had lived there. I remember so clearly standing in that living room — with the black floors, the sensual furniture, the dense, layered collection of art — and looking out the floor-to-ceiling glass at the atrium filled with tropical plants. I considered the Rothko Chapel and the museum and everything else I had seen and thought to myself, 'How did this happen? How did this couple come here from Paris in the 1940s and do all of this? And why here?' Your own bio. I was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, the only child of Virginia and Bill Middleton. My father had been a jazz musician when he was younger — tenor saxophone and clarinet. In LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY MAX BURKHALTER. ART DIRECTION MICHELLE AVIÑA. A WRITER'S XXXXXXXXXX F or more than a decade, author William Middleton has immersed himself in deciphering, unraveling, researching, and writing the story of two of the most influential yet intensely private collectors of the 20th century, John and Dominique de Menil. Founding Houston's Rothko Chapel and The Menil Collection doesn't begin to describe the artistic accomplishments of this riveting couple. In a PaperCity exclusive, Catherine D. Anspon debriefs Middleton, the former Paris bureau chief of the Fairchild empire — and soon-to-be Knopf author — on his upcoming epic biography. William Middleton takes a break for a walk with Hubert.

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