Two years ago, my family hosted a 19-year-old student from Japan for three weeks. Since the McNay Art Museum is one of my all-time favorite places in San Antonio, I took Miku for a visit.
We toured Marion Koogler McNay’s gorgeous 1929 Spanish Colonial-Revival home (designed by Atlee and Robert Ayres) that’s filled with breathtaking art before touring the 2008 Jane and Arthur Stieren wing (designed by Jean-Paul Viguier) that’s also filled with breathtaking art.
On our way down the stairs of the new wing, some fantastic-smelling men’s cologne wafted our way. My husband is allergic to perfumes and colognes, so I enjoy them vicariously when I’m out and about. The aroma grew stronger and stronger. When we reached the bottom of the stairs, an African-American male security guard was standing there smiling.
I smiled back and said, “You smell good!” Without missing a beat, he replied, “And you look good!” I laughed out loud, and Miku’s eyes doubled in size. Even though I don’t go to the McNay to run into the great-smelling security guard who’s quick with a compliment, it is a possibility.
What really draws me to the McNay is the setting and the art. San Antonio is blessed to have such a gorgeous museum in its midst. Marion Koogler McNay was an oil heiress who made San Antonio her adopted home. She was an artist who also collected art. When she died in 1950, she gave her home, the 23 acres it sits on, her extensive art collection and an endowment to create the first modern art museum in Texas.
The McNay opened in 1954, and it has been going strong ever since. Monet, Picasso, Dufy, Matisse, Chagall, Modigliani, Redon, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Rousseau, Renoir, Manet and more await you.
Truly, it’s an embarrassment of riches. Plus, the home itself is lovely to behold. Pay special attention to the floors and the ceilings in the original home. They are gorgeous.
I love imagining Marion and her friends hanging out in her beautiful home, discussing and creating art.
To learn more about Ms. McNay, be sure to check out the short documentary film and some of her personal belongings in the Orientation Gallery on the second floor.
One of my favorite things about the McNay is its courtyard. (See photo at top and the one below.) Ayres and Ayres did a magnificent job of creating a Spanish villa in San Antonio, Texas. Like La Alhambra in Granada, water plays a central role in enhancing the beauty and peacefulness of the courtyard. Bring a sketchpad along to unleash your own creativity and to capture the loveliness of the courtyard.
From now through Sept. 12, the museum is showcasing “Neither Model nor Muse: Women as Artists,” a wonderful collection that includes five paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and two by Mary Cassat. I especially enjoyed Joan Mitchell’s “Little Fields,” Marcia King’s “Rain Symbol” and Sarah Jimenez’s “Zapata”. While there, I was once again reminded of the generosity of Robert L.B. Tobin who was a major museum benefactor and voracious collector before his death. The museum’s Theatre Arts section, which Mr. Tobin championed, is under renovation and will re-open in September.
The museum also has an amazing collection of art glass (Nouveau and Deco) on display on the lower level of the new wing, thanks to the benevolence of Jeanne and Irving Mathews. The White Mice Vase and Bats Vase were my two favorites.
The McNay, located at 6000 N. New Braunfels Ave., is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Thursdays, it’s open from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. On Saturdays, it’s open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The museum’s admission is free on Thursday evenings and the first Sunday of every month. It’s always free for McNay members and children who are 12 and younger. Admission for adults is $8. Students with an ID, seniors who are 65 and older and active military may get in for $5.
From downtown, take the number 14 VIA bus and ask the driver to let you off at the N. New Braunfels/Austin Highway intersection in front of the Valero Corner Store. Be careful crossing Austin Highway! Enter the museum’s grounds from N. New Braunfels. To get back downtown, hop on the number 14 bus at Ken’s Service Center, across from where you were dropped off.
A day spent at the McNay is a day you’ll never regret. Do NOT miss it when you are in town. If you live in town, make haste!