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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sculpture and Architecture

I hate it when art doesn't live up to the hype about it. It's hard not to take it personally, as an aesthetic failure of the viewer. It's worse because I wanted to believe, wanted to be swept up in its influence.
Rothko Chapel Photograph by Hickey-Robertson
Sigh, the emperor had no clothes for me in the Rothko Chapel. It's a beautiful space for music and performance, but the paintings were opaque rather than mysterious. Sometimes a painting is just a painting, not a religious experience. I gave it 90 of my best minutes.

(Anyone out there with a similar experience?) 
Instead, I found the Byzantine Fresco Chapel to be very moving on many levels.
The ancient church (below) that housed the art is recreated in ghostly glowing glass walls.


In the 1980s thieves broke into a chapel in the Turkish-occupied section of Cyprus, ripped the frescoes from the dome and apse, and smuggled the 13th Century fragments from the island, intending to sell them off piece by piece. Working with the Church of Cyprus, Dominique de Menil rescued the fresco fragments; through the Menil Foundation, she then funded a two-year restoration.

Dominique felt that a museum setting for the restored frescoes would not be appropriate, compromising their “intangible element, which is the frescoes’ spiritual importance and their original significance.” She outlined her concept for a “chapel museum”—a consecrated space, used for liturgical functions—in a letter to her son, the architect Francois de Menil, asking him “to restore the sacred fragments to their original spiritual function.” (from the chapel website)

The chapel was the high point of the Menil Collection. Art that has both content and history, beautifully displayed. See it if you can before the frescoes are returned to Cypress.

Addendum: HOUSTON, TX.- The Menil Collection announced that March 4, 2012 will be the final day to see the Byzantine frescoes currently housed on its campus in the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, after which time they will be returned to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. In celebration of the frescoes, their time in Houston, and the purpose-built Chapel that has been their home for fifteen years, the Menil will present special public events commemorating the return of this sacred art.

The works, the largest intact Byzantine frescoes in the Western hemisphere, have been on long-term loan to the Menil from the Orthodox Church of Cyprus following their rescue by the Menil Foundation twenty-eight years ago. They are being returned to Cyprus following the conclusion of the loan agreement between the two parties.


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