Mark Rothko Chapel

(architects: Philip Johnson, Howard Barnstone, Eugene Aubry, 1971)

In 1964 Mark Rothko was commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil (who are also founders of the nearby Menil Collection that is housed in the Renzo Piano-designed Menil Museum and Cy Twombly Gallery) to create a meditative space filled with his site-specific paintings. The original architect assigned to work alongside Rothko was Philip Johnson, with whom Rothko clashed over their distinct ideas for the building. Rothko would object to the monumentality of Johnson’s plan as distracting from the artwork it was to house. For this reason the Chapel would go through several revisions and architects working on the meditative space. Rothko continued first with Howard Barnstone and then Eugene Aubry, but ultimately did not live to see the chapel’s completion in 1971. It was after a long struggle with depression that Rothko committed suicide in his New York Studio on February 25th, 1970.

It was John and Dominique de Menil, Houston philanthropists who promoted modern art that commissioned Rothko to create a series of transcendental and meditative forms of art that were to be housed in a non-denominational place of worship also designed by Rothko with the help of architect Philip Johnson.


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