'Vision' Quest

A decade in the making, William Middleton’s sweeping de Menil bio dives deep into the lives and passions of Houston’s most famous art patrons.

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There is no denying that Dominique and John de Menil made an indelible mark on Houston, leaving behind their astonishing collection of art and the museum that bears their name for future generations.


Now, they get the biography they deserve, in the form of Double Vision by William Middleton, published this month by Knopf, a work 10 years in the making. Why so long? “It covers the entire 20th century,” says Middleton. “Paris, New York and Houston; French history, World War I and World War II; two family histories instead of one. And then all of the many areas of interest that were important for the de Menils: antiquities, modern art, non-Western art, architecture, design, civil rights, human rights, religion and spirituality.”

As for why the debonair couple chose to focus their efforts on Houston, Middleton says it was a matter of where they felt they were needed.

“There is no doubt that the de Menils would not have collected in such an ambitious way if they had not settled in Texas,” he says. “I hope the full sweep of their story will give Houstonians a better appreciation for just how dedicated the de Menils were to making the city as good as it could be. They were on a mission in Houston. And, in a very real way, Houston became the muse for the de Menils’ collection. This book will make that clear.”

Art+Culture

“I WISH I came here sooner to experience this amazing city,” says advanced sommelier Rachel Van Til of her move to Houston just one year before the pandemic lockdown. When Covid appeared in 2020, along with layoffs and closings, it led to a career swerve for Van Til, a working mom who was a sommelier at Pappas Steakhouse. She took over the wine program at The Clubs at Houston Oaks, a posh (initiation fees can range into the six figures) members-only club northwest of the city with 10 lodges, 17 lakes, 900 acres and six dining options. Speaking of lots of good food and vino, the club’s 2022 Wine and Food Classic is this February 12 — it’s a great chance to taste hundreds of wines from around the world and learn about them from winemakers and professionals. “It’s our largest event of the year and it’s open to the public.” In our Q&A, Rachel dishes on her favorite date night, best wines to try this year and her brush with the me-too movement!

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