Pentagram’s Eddie Opara and Brankica Harvey have designed DVD packaging and graphics for a series of newly restored documentary films about works and artists in the Menil Collection, the art museum in Houston, Texas. Based in the private collection of the patrons Dominique and John de Menil, the museum's holdings range from antiquities to modern and contemporary art and include masterworks by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Yves Tanguy, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly, among many others. The de Menils were lifelong advocates of modern art and architecture, and museum is housed on a landmark campus that includes Renzo Piano’s first American building.
Opara’s team worked closely with the de Menil family on the packaging for the films. The Menil presents its collection in a direct, accessible manner that encourages a personal relationship with art—that, in the words of John de Menil, “Takes art off its marble pedestal and shows it as a daily companion”—and the documentaries offer an intimate view of the featured works. The films were directed or co-directed by Francois de Menil, the son of John and Dominique, who began his career as a documentary filmmaker before becoming an award-winning architect. The DVD series includes “Max Ernst Hanging” (1973), in which Dominique de Menil works with the Surrealist artist to put together the exhibition “Inside the Sight”; “The Rothko Chapel” (1972), a look at the chapel commissioned by the de Menils and designed by Philip Johnson that contains a suite of 14 works by the Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko; and “North Star: Mark Di Suvero” (1977), a portrait of the sculptor with a score by Philip Glass. Opara previously designed the identity for the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum at the Menil Collection, as well as the identity and website for Francois de Menil Architect.
For the DVD packaging, the designers created a clean, elegant and modern system that ties together the series as a whole and at the same time showcases the individual films and artists. The covers feature angled, transparent graphic overlays in colors inspired by the works. The overlays suggest the idea of projection and film and add a sense of expressiveness to the covers without overtaking the art. The composition is balanced by the existing logo of the de Menil Archives, a seal placed in the lower left corner. Typography is set in AG Schoolbook.
The packaging helps reintroduce the films as important documents of the art-making process. Printed on uncoated paper stock, the DVD cases open into a gatefold, and interior panels contain a description about each film, as well as historic images from the film’s production and the development of the artworks, including photographs and sketches. The team also created posters adapted from the DVD packaging for special screenings of “Max Ernst Hanging” and “The Rothko Chapel” at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival.
The DVDs are available for purchase from Microcinema.