In 2005, Robert Gober curated a show at the Menil Collection in Houston. In his catalogue, Robert Gober Sculptures and Installations, 1979-2007,” for the Schaulager show, Gober says, “Initially, I was only interested in curating from the collection and not including my own work, but when I began investigating the contents and the storage of the Menil Collection, I saw what [then chief curator] Matthew Drutt was already seeing. My work and the work in the collection shared affinities and themes. Catholicism, Surrealism, race, and a belief in the everyday object.”
The exhibition’s title, “The Meat Wagon,” comes from a codicil to John de Menil’s will. It’s awesome.
To my Executor
c/o Pierre M. Schumberger
I am a religions man deep at heart, in spite of appearances. I want to be buried as a catholic, with gaiety and seriousness.
I want the mass and last rites to be by Father Moubarac, because he is a highly spiritual man. Within what is permissible by catholic rules, and within the discretion of Moubarac, I want whoever feels so inclined to receive communion.
I want to be buried in wood, like the jews. The cheapest wood will be good enough. Any wood will do. I want a green pall, as we had for Jerry MacAgy. I would prefer a pickup or a flat bed truck to the conventional hearse.
I want the service to be held at my parish, St. Annes, not at The Rothko Chapel, because it would set a bad precedent.
I want music. I would like Bob Dylan to perform, and if it isn’t possible, any two or three electric guitars playing softly. I want them to play tunes of Bob Dylan, and to avoid misunderstanding, I have recorded suggestions on the enclosed tape. The first one, Ballad of Hollis Brown is evocative of the knell (nostalgic bell tolling). Then at some point Blowin’ In The Wind, The Times They Are A-Changin’ and WIth God On Our Side, because all my life I’ve been, mind and marrow, on the side of the underdog. Then Girl From The North Country to the rhythm of which the pall bearers would strut out of the church. Father Duploye could also be asked to sing Veni Creator in latin, to the soft accompaniment of a guitar.
I would like the funeral director to be Black.
I would like the pall bearers to be Ladislas Bugner, Francesco, Francois, Miles Glaser, Mickey Leland and Pete Schlumberger.
I would like George to stand with Dominique, Christophe, Adelaide, and Phil. Simone Swan, Helen Winkler, Jean Riboud, Ame Vennema, Rossellini and Howard Barnstone will be part of the family. Also Gladys Simmons and Emma Henderson.
I want no eulogy.
These details are not inspired by a pride, which would be rather vain, because I’ll be a corpse for the meat wagon. I just want to show that faith can be alive.
NovemberDecember 13, 1972
/s/ John de Menil
The Rothko Chapel had only been dedicated in 1971. John de Menil died on June 1, 1973. His wife Dominique, who exerted a formative influence on my views of art in the times we met between 1990 and 1995, died in 1998.