Studio Brunstrum

Lonestar Art

March 10, 2016

Art lovers take note: If you happen to be in Houston, don’t miss the Rothko Chapel and Menil Collection on the 30-acre Menil Campus.

Art lovers take note:  If you happen to be in Houston, don’t miss the Rothko Chapel and Menil Collection on the 30-acre Menil Campus. This incredible development was founded more than 40 years ago by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, a pair of very generous art lovers who are sharing their private collections with everyone, at no charge.Photo Courtesy of

I recently paid a visit with two colleagues, Skip Sroka of Washington D.C. and Scott Ageloff of New York - during a weekend board meeting of The Design Trust Ltd., a think tank of interior designers from across the country.

We were truly awestruck by the Rothko Chapel and its murals by Russian-born American painter Mark Rothko (1902-1970). The installation wraps around the interior walls of the chapel and includes seven canvases with hard-edged black rectangles on maroon ground and seven purple tonal paintings.

Honestly, when I first walked in I thought “Really? This is it?” But when you quiet yourself you realize that it is ingenious. There is so much nuance and emotion from simple bush strokes and lines. It reminds me of a black sheath dress – there are dozens of variations on a single theme, each one unique.

Photo Courtesy of

The Chapel earned a well-deserved listing on the National Register of Historic Places and is included in National Geographic’s book “Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations.”

Trust me, it’s worth seeing, and so is the Menil Collection, which is housed in a separate museum. It features art collected largely from the 1940s to the 1990s by the de Menils, including Byzantine and Medieval art and artifacts, Surrealist, Modern, Contemporary, Ancient and African art and much more. Our friend Scott knew the librarian at the collection so we scored a private tour of the back area and a good chunk of the public areas.

Photo Courtesy of

I think it’s notable that all of this wonderful art is located in a residential area instead of in downtown Houston, and again, entry to all buildings and public programs is free. I couldn’t help thinking that the North Shore would be a wonderful place for a cultural opportunity like this.

Susan Brunstrum
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