On March 4th, 2019 local art installation and non-denominational spiritual space Rothko Chapel will close temporarily for renovations aimed at renewing the space and working towards expansion to accommodate a growing amount of interest. As a public art space and place of meditation since 1971, the Rothko Chapel has been a Houston art fixture for over 40 years. Paired with Newman’s Broken Obelisk and reflecting pool, located just across the street from the Menil collection, the chapel receives between 55,000-100,000 visitors annually. The closure is slated to last until mid-December later this year.
According to the closure announcement, the renovations are planned to align with the chapel’s 50th anniversary, marked for early 2021. As part of the Rothko Chapel Opening Spaces program, this closure will mark the first of several renovations and initiatives aimed at expanding and improving the overall experience and availability of the resources, programs, and engagement with Mark Rothko’s work. Much of the closure will be spent improving the internal front of the chapel, modifying the vestibule and several internal safety and fire systems. In the wake of Houston’s most recent run in with Harvey, extra preventative measures are being taken against flooding in addition to the initially planned renovations.
Coming on the heels of the Menil Collection’s recent renovations and addition, this is the latest in a series of closures and changes for the set of Menil projects. Reopening September 22 last year, the Menil Collection completed a series of internal changes to their main building, and shortly thereafter, the Menil Drawing Institute opened in early November. Open to all, these installations and collections are a hallmark of the Menil neighborhood and Houston art museum scene, with a unique collection of paintings, sculptures, and architectural works stemming from the personal collection of Houston philanthropists and art curators John and Dominique de Menil. As key figures in the shaping of Houston’s emerging art scene, the de Menil’s collection and projects have remained popular amongst Houstonians and visitors to the city.
While both the drawing institute and the renovations of the main collection went over their estimated timeline, hopefully Rothko Chapel will reopen for its regular operations on time. In the meantime, staff and programming featured by the chapel will continue off site, with a list of events, schedules for regular programming, and other information concerning the temporary closure on the chapel’s website. With no other major changes on the calendar, the trio of art buildings should be open to the public in full starting in 2020, marking another exciting decade in the life of these Houston landmarks. In the meantime, patrons and visitors can look forward to new exhibitions launching in the Drawing Institute campus and the main building of the Menil Collection, featuring Roni Horn’s When I Breath I Draw, Parts 1 and 2 from February 15 to September 1. A series of other exhibitions and selections from the permanent collection will, of course, continue to be presented throughout the year.