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Taken with Twombly

After all the hoopla, one has to ask: Is Cy Twombly worth it?

In fairness, encyclopedic collections are things of the past, so a space with a panoramic range such as the Cy Twombly Gallery does allow for an assessment of an artist's career, enabling us to form an opinion against which we can check ourselves from time to time. And admittedly, the Gallery places Houston squarely on the global art map, and promotes the titillating idea of the city as a metropolis of art pavilions or mini-museums. (Anyone want to lay odds that a similar setup for Rauschenberg or Johns may be in the offing?) But will these spaces provide the ephemeral "communion" with art that the Menil has nurtured or will they merely provide the chance to gawk at the work of bona fide blue-chippers?

Still, the Menil has always gone against the grain, has always been committed to the artists it has championed. To give the community something permanent is not out of line with the Menil philosophy. Never mind that obsessing over keeping a collection together and intact is a little like becoming embalmed. While the Cy Twombly Gallery contains some works that have never been exhibited before, the retrospective presents a good number of the same paintings that were panned in 1979. Now that body of work is being praised. Does it matter that Twombly is currently fashionable, but that our opinion could change again in ten or 15 years? Has the Menil put all its eggs in one basket? Remember, forever is a long, long time.

"Cy Twombly: A Retrospective" will show through March 19 at The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross, 525-9400.

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