Not a Pretty Picture

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Glaser served as a pallbearer at John's funeral in 1973 and went to work for the foundation because, he says, John asked him to. "I felt I owed it to Dominique to stay as long as I could," Glaser says.

Winkler, too, had spent years in the de Menils' inner circle. He met them as an undergraduate student at the University of St. Thomas, where the de Menils ran the art history department. He has a particular interest in architecture and oversaw the design and construction of the Menil Collection. Winkler's pet projects included the Cy Twombly Pavilion and the recent permanent Dan Flavin installation.

Friends say he understood Dominique's vision even better than she did. "He was that student that exceeded the teacher," Slavka says.

In the Byzantine, rivalrous familial world of the de Menils, Winkler and Glaser were old allies who supported each other during the trying final years of Dominique's life, when she worried increasingly (and, Glaser says, needlessly) about money. Still, Winkler's resignation took the board by surprise, leaving an unexpected power vacuum.

When the board unanimously voted to ask Winkler to reconsider, he came back with a list of conditions that says a great deal about the intricate alliances and enmities threaded through Menil circles. First, he asked that Glaser be reinstated. Second, he asked that Elsian Cozens, Dominique's longtime assistant, who now has the ear of Sarofim, be fired. Sharon McGaughey, who worked in Glaser's office, also had to go. Cozens and McGaughey refused to comment. Most significant, Francois de Menil, Dominique's son, had to step down from the board before Winkler would rescind his resignation.

Sarofim says Winkler's conditions were "unacceptable." Three of the five de Menil children serve on the foundation board, but according to Glaser, he, Winkler and Dominique decided after many discussions that the presidency should go to Sarofim. "I always thought very highly of Louisa; so did Mrs. de Menil," Glaser says. "She understood Dominique's sensitivities and spirit." Many people hoped Sarofim's presence would keep the children in check; sources close to the board say that Francois, in particular, would have preferred a more powerful role. Francois referred all questions from the Press to Sarofim.

Francois and Glaser were good friends in the '70s; they shared a joint stock-trading venture some say ended with Glaser threatening to sue Francois. "Let's put it this way: We lost a lot of money in the end," says Glaser, who declined to comment on whether he blamed Francois.

As for bad blood between Francois and Winkler, a rivalry is not difficult to imagine. In a recent New Yorker profile of Dominique, Calvin Tompkins wrote, "To Francois, it sometimes seemed as though his mother's students -- the ones she virtually adopted -- were closer to her than he could ever be. 'One thing you learned was that there was a premium on creativity,'" Francois told Tomkins, "'and that the works on the wall were in some ways more precious than the child.'"

In the mid '90s Francois got the chance to prove his own creativity to his mother when she selected him as the architect to design the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum. The chapel, made to house artwork on loan to the Menils until 2012 from the Church of Cyprus, came at a bad time for the museum. Ten months before the groundbreaking, the museum had been forced to lay off a third of its staff, many of whom were longtime employees. Dominique had decreased her annual support for the Menil Collection, presumably to divert funds to the chapel. Winkler reportedly did not lend his full support to Francois's chapel. That may have signaled a role reversal in the good son/bad son drama; the following year, Dominique replaced Paul with Francois as an executor of her estate.

If Sarofim was intended to buffer the Menil from the whims of the de Menil progeny, the plan backfired. Although Sarofim denies that Francois lead the effort to fire Glaser, Glaser says, "Obviously, the children are the ones who wanted to get rid of me."

By some accounts (Winkler did not return messages from the Press), Glaser's sacking was the last episode in an ideological battle between Winkler and the board over how the museum should be run. From the time its headquarters were at the de Menils' house on San Felipe, where everyone would gather in the kitchen for lunch, the Menil Foundation has always been conducted more like a royal court than a professional institution: Loyalty is supremely important, job descriptions unheard of. Even in the family company, the oil-service business Schlumberger, memos and paperwork were frowned upon, and "the main contribution" of one high-ranking employee was to prevent the company "from becoming an establishment," according to art lover and left-wing philosophe Jean Riboud, the company's CEO.

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Shaila Dewan