The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas, founded in 1971 by John and Dominique de Menil. The interior is not only a chapel but also a significant work of modern art. Mark Rothko’s fourteen black but color-hued paintings adorn its walls.

The artist had a large influence on the shape of the building, an octagon inscribed in a Greek cross, as well as the design of the chapel. The Rothko Chapel’s official website has more information.” The Rothko Chapel became the world’s first broadly ecumenical center, a holy place open to all religions and belonging to none,” writes Susan J. Barnes. It evolved into a hub for international cultural, religious, and philosophical exchanges, as well as colloquia and performances. It also became a place of private prayer for people of all faiths.” Spirituality has long been an important consideration for many artists, and the opportunity to bring people together in one place may appeal to artists who believe that art can transcend some of the barriers imposed by other parts of society.

The chapel houses fourteen of Rothko’s paintings. Three walls feature triptychs, while the remaining five walls feature single paintings. Rothko began painting a series of black paintings in 1964, incorporating other dark hues and texture effects. Visitors, who come to see the massive black canvases that adorn the walls of the chapel frequently ask, “Where are the paintings?” The color of the paintings changes depending on the time of day. In 1964, the de Menils offered Rothko a commission for the chapel. He painted the fourteen large paintings and four alternates from the fall of 1964 to the spring of 1967, incorporating many of the characteristics of the earlier 1964 black paintings. The sculpture Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman stands in front of the chapel.

Aside from being an excellent place for quiet reflection, as intended by the artist, its links to human rights and other political campaigns have led to this area becoming a meeting place for like-minded people. This means that the impact of both artists, Rothko and Newman, has grown even after their deaths. The most famous artists in history have all found a way to remain relevant and influential even after their deaths, whether through high-profile auctions of their work that have garnered significant media attention or perhaps through how they addressed certain issues that are still relevant today.

The Rothko Chapel’s mission is “to inspire people to action through art and contemplation, to foster reverence for humanity’s highest aspirations, and to provide a forum for global concerns.”

Mission Statement for Rothko Chapel

Outside of the art world, the Chapel has become well-known, with regular coverage in local, national, and even international press. One of the best examples of this was when it was featured in National Geographic’s 2009 book Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations. It continues to draw a large number of visitors who come for a variety of reasons, primarily to seek refuge and relax in a safe environment, or to specifically appreciate some of Rothko’s paintings in an environment that he worked hard to create, even more than he would try to direct galleries when they displayed some of his other artworks.

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