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Interview with: Anne Mead
Archive Number: OH JL09
I: —had a close association with Mr. and Mrs. de Menil, and had a particularly close association with Rothko Chapel and hope that she can also give us an explanation of the Human Rights Awards. Anne, would you tell us about your first associations with Mr. and Mrs. de Menil?
AM: Yes, it goes way back to the middle ‘40s when both of us arrived in Houston—didn’t know each other then, of course. They came from Paris. They were already art patrons. We came from Wisconsin. My husband was a theatre man, and their interest in theatre is what first brought us together in the ‘40s. Then throughout the ’50s and the ‘60s, we sort of lost each other except for Christmas cards and certain social gatherings, that kind of thing, but in 1971, when they opened the Rothko Chapel—it was on February 26th. It was a windy, cold, rainy afternoon, and they had erected a wood platform in the paved area between the chapel entrance and the pool where the Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk is mounted.
Anyway, the program took place there, and it was witnessed or participated in really by clergymen of many different denominations. The pope sent the cardinal from Holland to be his representative. There were rabbis there, prominent rabbis from Europe and from the United States, a Sheikh from the Middle East, various Protestant clergymen of note, and so on. These people really personified the dedication of the chapel because, as John de Menil said, this chapel was to be a place where people of all religions and of no religion could feel at home, therefore it had no imagery. Their commitment was not only to that religious purpose, but also a place where social justice—which is kind of an over-worked word, but nevertheless, that’s why it’s overworked because it’s so true, I guess.
That inaugurated the chapel. I was not at that time employed at the chapel. About 6 months later, John and Dominique called me one afternoon to come over to their house, which I did, wondering what in the world they wanted me for. I was still working for Houston Grand Opera, and didn’t know really what was in their minds. They said at that time that they needed someone who was acquainted with the Houston scene to be the liaison between the chapel and the community. They had built this unique, absolutely unique place named after an artist, not after a saint, a place that was mysterious, bewildering—some people said—because of its somewhat austere look.
They chose Rothko, Mark Rothko, to do paintings to create a spiritual environment in a chapel that would be used by all religions. Consequently, no one was quite sure how the chapel would develop, how it would be used. They—I think very wisely—decided to let it find its own way in the community. At first there were only—there was a staff of two. Well, I’ll go back. They asked to me the liaison. I was not a bit interested in giving up my nice job for something else, but John had an extension phone put in my phone and an answering service, which enabled me to do—for 2 years I kept my other job. Also was the contact with the public regarding the Chapel causes, which in those days were not very numerous.
(04:19) In 1973,—that was the year that John died, by the way, it was year of the first colloquium, which brought together theological persons from all parts of the world, Colloquium 1. Then it was realized that they had to have a full-time person as a coordinator or whatever you want to call it—called the connections person. They then persuaded me to come to the Chapel full time, and by that time I was ready to. From the midsummer of ’73, I was there, always there. The Chapel—you know—is open 7 days a week. Its attendance began to grow. Events began to develop, and so it was important to have an organization of some kind, but—you know—the Menil organizations are different from most other organizations. They don’t have a written membership. They don’t have membership dues. They don’t have a rigid schedule of procedures and so forth.
They still continue to let the chapel find its way, so to speak. The Menil’s themselves were Catholics, but through many, many travels around the world, they had seen so much truth and so much beauty in many other religions that they felt that they wanted to create a place where, in this big modern city, people would be able to come and pray, worship in their own way. They sought a modern artist to create the environment for this modern chapel. The original architect was Philip Johnson. His Houston associates were Eugene Aubry and Howard Barnstone, who later took over when Johnson withdrew his name as a result of an argument with Rothko over the lighting in the chapel, and, of course, that’s a well-known story, but a rather interesting one.
I: Would you relate it for us?
AM: Well, yes—you know—Rothko did all of those chapel paintings. He has mounted 14 huge panels. You’ve seen them. The people listening to this haven’t seen them. They must go because there is no way to describe what they see. Anyway, Rothko did these paintings in his big New York studio. It was, I believe, at one a great big carriage house, of immense proportions. He was painting with New York skylight lighting, dim, and so forth. He wanted to put a huge glass dome in the middle of the chapel to light the chapel. Johnson, who had done many buildings in Houston by that time, knew that the bright Texas sunlight coming down through a center opening was too much, but Rothko got his way, and at that time, Johnson withdrew his name. Later Johnson became a friend again and cooperated in the designing of the bathos, which presenting is in the middle of the ceiling and carries the light to the walls where the paintings can be seen.
(07:52) Rothko didn’t live to see the paintings in the chapel. He didn’t live to see the glory or the error of his ways. He had planned to come to Houston, to drive to Houston for the dedication in February. He wouldn’t fly. He was afraid of flying, but he had made arrangements—I’ve been told. I didn’t know him—to drive to Houston—he had a driver employed—for the opening, but almost exactly a year before the opening, he committed suicide. Many people who come to the chapel and see these great dark paintings think they’re suicidal in nature. Those who knew Rothko at the time he painted these—see, they were finished 4 years before he committed suicide—said that he was never a happier man than he was at that time because being Russian and being Jewish, and well, just being that kind of person, he had a strong spiritual compulsion, which he didn’t express by following any religion. He didn’t follow Judaism or any other religion, and yet he felt this great need to put his feelings into form, visible form.
He chose these great dark meditative panels as his way of doing it. Barnett Newman, his close friend—you know—private New York school. They called themselves the irascibles, didn’t they, and I guess they really were. Barnett Newman chose architecture as his most visible spiritual expression, so he did the Broken Obelisk. It was not intended that the obelisk and the Chapel would be companion pieces. Newman finished the obelisk in, what, 64, I think. Three obelisks were made at that time. One is in the upper courtyard at the Museum of Modern Art—or was before the building program started. I don’t know where it is now. The third one is in the quadrangle of the University of Washington in Seattle. The one here is the only one that is mounted with greenery and water and all around it, and so, of course, it shows up beautifully—but I’m getting off the track. You wanted me to talk about the Chapel.
The obelisk is really—it came to rest in the Chapel accidently because the Menil’s purchased it for the city of Houston, offered it to the city of Houston in 1968, the year that Martin Luther King was assassinated. They felt that because of its broken top, instead of soaring to a peak as the center line usually one does, Leland broke the top because this was life, and lives end usually before they peak out. They offered it to the city of Houston, but they wanted it dedicated to Martin Luther King. It was offered to be placed at the end of the lagoon in front of city hall. The city council at that time –I think Mayor Welch was standing judge—turned it down because of the dedication to Martin Luther King.
As Dominique says—she is a real believer in providence, as am I. She said, “That was the best thing that ever happened,” because they searched for other places to put that obelisk, and it came to rest out here opposite the chapel, which makes it a perfect place. It dominates the Rothko Park. That whole square is now a park. The chapel itself is almost severe in its lines. It’s a low building, no more than 2 stories high, and yet the obelisk has that soaring quality that goes with it, both clean, uncluttered, modern lines. The two together have provided such an inspiration to people who come there that Dominique and John both said, “Well, why didn’t we think of this first?” It turned out fine.
I: Would you tell us about the original colloquium and some of the programs that have been at the Rothko chapel and sort of the philosophies behind what is presented?
AM: (12:10) Well, of course. Since the commitment of the chapel was to religion and human rights. Really, those are the two prongs and purposes. The first colloquium brought together theologians, not in a confrontation atmosphere, simply to share traditional knowledge. There was an African tribal religious leader. There was a Hindu philosopher from the University of Madras. There were Catholic priests. There were Jewish rabbis from different parts of earth, all of them scholars, all of them presenting their traditions for the understanding of people who would listen. It went on for a whole week, and it was a most remarkable event. I don’t know whether you have any papers to support these things or not, but if the archives do include any papers, the program from that Colloquium I, we called it, should be included.
I: Colloquium I because there were others to come?
AM: Yeah, that was their idea, yeah. That same year, or within about 6 months, Colloquium II took place, almost spontaneously because Dom Hélder Câmara of Recife, Brazil, the controversial archbishop of Recife, had come to Houston to give a talk. He was a friend of the Menil’s. They had supported his work in Brazil. About the anniversary of—I’m ahead of myself. He came to Houston in October to conduct a colloquium on human rights/human reality. Dr. Jonas Salk was the co-organizer, and they brought in other people. There was a Catholic, Giorgio La Pira, the communist mayor of Florence, Italy (laughs) was there and somebody from Washington—what is it NRH? No, not national endowment for the arts—it’s HEW.
I: Health, education, and welfare?
I: Excuse me. May I ask a brief question? Who chose the guest list?
AM: Well, that colloquium and all colloquiums—colloquia, whichever you choose to say—were devised mostly by the Menil’s, but they always consulted with other people in various fields whom they had confidence in, and this is their connection. They’ve always—well, you know—they have known so many people all over the world—but they were ultimately the ones who say yeah or nay. That was a weekend seminar—no, they called it Colloquium II. It took place in the chapel. Unlike colloquium, which was—you might say it esoteric. It was that cerebral. Colloquium II brought in everybody. It was open to the public. It was a question and answer thing. It was 2 ½ days of real interchange between people saying, “What can I do?” people saying, “What have we done in the field of human rights?”
(15:43) It was very successful as a public event, participated in by the public, lead by these two marvelous men, Dom Hélder and Dr. Salk. When Hélder —before Hélder —oh, I shouldn’t use his last name. He’s such priestly man—Dom Hélder left town, he made us—meaning, he spoke to Dominique, and I was there listening—that we never let the anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, December 10th, go by without an observance. From 1973 onward, there has been an annual observance of the anniversary of the Human Rights in the Rothko chapel. This is the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which took place in San Francisco in 1948.
That was Colloquium II, and that began—it didn’t begin, but it certainly gave a lot of force to Dominique’s later—so the Human Rights event has been an annual affair. Sometimes it didn’t bring in celebrities. One year we had 13 Houston residents from 13 different countries representing 13 different religions, present in the chapel, reading the 30 articles of the Declaration of Human Rights. We had a Japanese doctor from Japan—who was Shinto, of course. We had an Ethiopian Christian who was on the faculty of the University of Houston and so. We had and American Indian and, of course, then all the usual Christian religions and the Jewish, of course. Anyway, there were 13 different religions, 13 different nationalities, all of them from different countries, but were now living in Houston. That was one of the memorable occasions.
Dominique’s dedication to human rights really climaxed with the human rights celebration, the awards program, last June, June of 1981. The program, I think, was called the awards for what she calls “little people” who have been doing heroic work in the field of human rights in different parts of the world. People, who have never been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, have never been singled out for conspicuous labor in connection with the freeing of prisoners and so forth. She discovered these people mostly by connections in Paris. One of her three homes is in Paris—Houston, New York, and Paris. It was what we called the Paris connection that produced many of the winners—if you want to call them that—of these awards.
(18:57) For instance, she brought from Argentina, two of the Madres who were among the hundreds of Madres who marched every Thursday afternoon in the plaza in Buenos Aires. They’re not threatening. They’re not seeking anything except some knowledge about what has happened to members of their families who had disappeared under the Argentinean regime. She brought a man from Munich who had worked for the—he had been a political prisoner in Russia for 5 years, and when he got out, left the country by what means I don’t know. He lives in Munich now, and he, through an underground system has maintained contact with present prisoners in Moscow—and well, in other parts of Russia too,—grapevine that is simply astounding. I never knew really how a grapevine could work in an underground system until he very sketchily—not in much detail because that would be dangerous—told us how they from house-to-house almost, typewriter-to-typewriter, hand-to-hand, it went out, which keeps people hoping. Really hope is all that it is.
Those awards, 12 awards, $10,000 each, which went to the persons for their causes, not for their—well, they could use it for their personal benefit if they wanted to—but all of them were here except those that are still presently imprisoned. One of them in Johannesburg, a journalist who was—when they found out that this journalist in Johannesburg was to receive an award at the Rothko Chapel, they detained him, and he is under house arrest, so he couldn’t come.
I: I thought I remembered two?
AM: (21:09) There was another one, a Lithuanian who couldn’t come because he was still in prison. Actually, there were three who couldn’t make it, but the man from El Salvador, Roberto Claire, I think was his name—did come. He was representing the organization for legal social justice or such name, which was one of those mean-everything names. He came from El Salvador, but the security was so tight on him that we couldn’t announce his name until the night that the award was given because it was feared that he would be hurt or kidnapped if it was known that he was in Houston because there was a price on his head, so he got the award. The money part was put into banks in this country for the use of their causes. They didn’t risk going back with it.
I: The people that introduced them, how were they selected, because that was a very new thing?
AM: Well, the people who introduced them were personal friends of these people, and in most instances, would themselves have deserved the award because they were all part of the same heroic operation. That night I’ll never forget. I had the responsibilities—with my theatre background, I call it the front of the house—for the setting, the lights, the taping, and so forth.
The program was so long. It started at 8:00. There were 12 awards to be given with 12 introduction speeches and 12 acceptances. It went on until a quarter until midnight. We knew, from looking at the program, that it was going to be long. We didn’t know it was going to be that long. You know—everybody stayed. The chapel was filled. The evening didn’t seem long because every story was different, every story was dramatic. Every story was so—I don’t know—it was like a continued story that you don’t want to leave, except that every chapter was different. At a quarter until 12:00, it was finally over, and we were serving refreshments out on the patio, and we thought nobody would stay for refreshments, but they did. They wanted to talk to these people, so they came out of the chapel and they stayed. It was a beautiful moonlit night. We were fortunate it didn’t rain. (laughs)
I: Is there anything in that nature planned again?
AM: Well, since the awards night or proceeding it—the tenth anniversary year was 1981, and it was a big year. We had a freedom Passover service in the chapel at Passover time in April, which was the Seder and a reenactment of the Passover ceremonies in the chapel. Following the awards, in the fall we had Islam Colloquium. That was Colloquium III, in which Islamic leaders from the Middle East primarily, but not entirely—Malaysia—they sent some. Anyway, from Europe also, but they came for one week, again, to provide an exposition of the nature of Islam, the essence of Islam, really. That was another big event.
(24:42) In November we had—and I’m talking about this because this is typical of chapel activities. We had 2 musical events in November, which were very different and just marvelous. On succeeding weekends we had a program of morning ragas by a Hindu musician Condi Pronoff(??) from India, and that was beautiful. He has the same morning as the worshiping time, and the ragas were very much, but of course, ancient, ancient music played on primitive instruments, the tabla, the tanpura, and so on.
The following weekend we had Steve Rice—modern—playing a new composition. It was the U.S. premiere of his new composition called Tahalene, which is the word for Psalms. It was based on four Psalms in the Jewish liturgy. That was extremely modern music. I mean—vocal, instrumental, percussion mostly. Some people would say hard rock. It wasn’t like that, but almost. (laughs) Again, both kinds of events seem to be just right for the Rothko Chapel. It is astonishing to me, even now after 2 years over there, to see how many things fit into that place, but mostly, it’s a quiet place of meditation day after day after day.
The life of the Chapel, the inner life of the Chapel, is its most enduring and, I think, most important value. It is, of course, the combination of things that has made it—I’m sure, if John were alive, that he would feel good about the way the Chapel has grown, and I know Dominique feels good about it. That brings us up-to-date. They may be planning another colloquium. I’m sure they are. Mrs. D., well, again—which is what we all call her in the present times—she is planning another awards event. It won’t be this year, but perhaps in another year or two, because as she grows older—we’re almost the same age—she feels that she must accomplish certain things and does it so well.
I: I assume that the Menil Foundation funds the Chapel and its events?
AM: Well, the source of all the money, of course, is Schlumberger—was Schlumberger. The Rothko Chapel is a separate foundation. There is the Menil Foundation. I think there is now a museum collection, a Menil Collection Foundation or a corporation, whatever it is. There is a Rothko Chapel Foundation.
I: Is it mainly, though, Menil and Schlumberger-funded or is it public money?
AM: Well, in the case of the chapel, when the place was built, at great cost because of the investment in Rothko’s paintings alone, a number of Menil friends contributed to the original cost. The Rothko Foundation provides the funds for all of the operating costs. They don’t take up collections in the chapel. They allow people to use the chapel for money-making purposes or even—for instance, if you have services there, they don’t charge you rent. You can have a service there.
I: It’s free?
AM: It’s free to the public, oh, yes, because the Rothko Foundation provides all operating expenses. If they have events of unusual cost, (unintelligible). This was any small amount that was required, but there was a list of benefactors who contributed to that particular event, but the ongoing support is from the Foundation. As I said, they don’t ever rent the chapel. People have weddings there, surprisingly, and memorial services. These are mostly people of mixed religions, and we don’t allow civil ceremonies because it is a chapel. They get their own minister, priest, or rabbi to come here, and it provides a place for a spiritual environment, something of a special dimension for a wedding that would otherwise have to be a totally secular event.
(29:05) Then in the case of memorials, very often if the person who survives or the family who survives don’t have a particular church to do or if the person who died was not a member of a particular church, they come to the chapel for a memorial service. It fulfills a need that the Menil’s didn’t envision, but that has happened, and it’s been one of the great rewards that they’ve had, that we’ve all had, from seeing that this Chapel really fills a need that nobody thought of. It is absolutely, truly open to everyone. There are a lot of religions, as well as Westerns.
I: How is that scheduling accomplished? How do people call on the chapel?
AM: People come down to the Chapel and ask for whatever they want. We get many calls. I should say we received many calls. I retired this month, but I presume the policy will be the same because it’s set by the board of directors, and that process is the same. They call and say they want to use the Chapel. It could be for a wedding or for a memorial service or for a concert or to bring a Swami to Houston or for something else. The policy of the Chapel in the past is then not to rent it for prophesying. This, in its day of the proliferation of cults, has become a rather serious matter.
People have their favorite gurus, their favorite swamis, their favorite missionaries who want to come to give lectures. It’s not a lecture hall. As Dominique said, “It’s a place to prayer and to think, but not to preach. She really was very, very adamant about that point. One time she said, “We’ve been talked to death.” (laughs) That’s the way it has developed. When I was there as administrator, I would get calls from people wanting to bring their favorite missionaries or whatever persuasion to lecture in the Chapel. We always sit down with them and talk with people, find just what is in their program. When you reach the point where we say, “We never rent the Chapel. We do not allow collections or tickets to be sold for these events,” they immediately left here because usually they have to raise money in connection with an event. It’s just hanging onto the pride. If you can’t raise money, you don’t need a chapel.
I: Could you tell us how Rothko was chosen of all the artists that it could’ve been.
AM: (31:33) Yes that was very interesting to me because I had no knowledge of Rothko except his wonderfully bright early paintings. I’d seen his combinations of yellow and orange and blue and green. I had seen the—I happened to be at the Tate when the Rothko paintings were in storage because they were building a new wing which was going to have it’s own Rothko room, so I saw these marvelous panels lying on their sides in one of the subterranean passageways. At that time, I didn’t have any feeling about the dark paintings, because they were not in their own enclosure. I haven’t been to the new room at the Tate. Have you been there, Linda or Mary Joe?
I: I sure haven’t.
AM: Rothko now has his own room, so it’s not a passageway between rooms, and there is not other art in the room I’ve been told, but they say it still does not create the feeling that you get walking into the Rothko Chapel. I presume that is, first of all, because it’s called a chapel, so people come in with different expectations. Also, it is so quiet and it is so separate and it is so dark that the first feeling is awesome.
I: I think it’s emotional.
AM: You’re right. It is emotional, and the emotions go sometimes one way and sometimes another. Some people come in and they say, “Oh, it’s too dark. I don’t like it here,” and they’ll leave, but they come back. There is something irresistible.
I: It’s very thought-provoking.
AM: (33:20) Yeah, it really is.
I: You react.
AM: Yeah, well, the Menil’s when they came to Houston from Paris, they were already, of course, very familiar with the Matisse Chapel in Vence. It was in their minds to build a modern chapel for this modern city embellished by the works of a modern artist. Their looking began in 1945. It was not until 1964, when they had seen the dark, dark Rothko’s in New York that they felt here was the right artist. They had been seeking all those years for just the right artist to do this chapel. It was in ’64 that they commissioned Rothko to do paintings for a chapel. It was a huge commission, of course, and a very challenging one because he had never ever had anything of that proportion. At the same time, they engaged Philip Johnson to be the architect, so it was a rare, extremely rare, case of artist and architect being able to create together.
Now, you people are so knowledgeable about art. Maybe you know of other buildings that have been created by artist and architect. I don’t know. Matisse went into the chapel in Vance after it was—
I: Well, you can go all the way back to Michelangelo with that and the Sistine Chapel, but rarely does it—
AM: Angelo wasn’t the architect of the chapel. What’s her name—you know—the chapel at Citicorp in New York at Lexington and at Fifth and Third. Oh—you know—she does the—Nevelson.
I: Louise Nevelson.
AM: Yeah, well she has this beautiful chapel. It is an all-white chapel with wood, kind of bah relief all around, so it’s just a white-white look, as compared to the dark look. Her inside of the chapel work came after the building was built, but here we’re Rothko and Johnson. Sometimes that (unintelligible) (laughs) is devising. As Gene Aubry, who knew Rothko, traveled back and forth a great deal between Houston and New York in the building of the chapel, he said one time, “Every centimeter of this place is Philip Johnson, all of the proportions, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, everything except the skylight.” Gene even carried the asphalt bricks which paved the chapel, these marvelous—this flooring which likes it had been walked on for centuries, and it’s only 10 years old. Anyway, Gene personally carried 2 asphalt bricks with him to New York for Rothko’s inspection to see if they were the right thing, and Rothko did approve. That is how the building of the chapel happened.
When the Menil’s had—of course, the actual building of it—it started in ’65, I think—was supposed to be completed by ’68 when the paintings were finished. With buildings delays and so forth and so forth, it wasn’t completed until ’71. That is why Rothko, who had planned to come, was not able to because his life had ended.
I: How many panels are on view and how many exist?
AM: (36:51) There are 14 huge panels in the chapel. It is not true. As Diane Waldman says in her book Mark Rothko: A Retrospective, it is not true that they represent the 14 stations of the cross. Dominique laughed and laughed and then almost cried when she read that because nothing was farther from Rothko’s mind than to have stations of the cross represented in this chapel. Nevertheless, that mistake was corrected in the second edition of that retrospective. In addition to those 14 panels, there are 4 more, 2 pairs in storage in Houston. These have been shown from time to time in other places, and somehow you never get the feeling from these beautiful big panels displayed in a gallery that you get when they are in the Rothko Chapel, so there is something about the joining of the two that works.
I: Are they ever displayed in the chapel?
AM: No. They’re too big to get in or out. (laughs) The chapel paintings were brought in through the hole in the ceiling, which is the skylight, which became the skylight.
I: The famous skylight.
AM: They’re too big to get out through any doorways, of course, so any conservation work that needs to be done—and from time to time all paintings require some conservation—they’re simply taken down from the walls and work is done in the Chapel. Those 4 panels are a backup if ever anything required the Chapel panels to be replaced. They’re the right proportions for the Chapel.
I: In interviewing the things that exist because of the de Menil’s, the thing we find over and over and over again is their incredible personality and their distinctive taste involved in that. Can you comment about that?
AM: (38:49) Well, I have never, ever been exposed to such, I guess, eclecticism—3,000 BC sculptures, African artifacts or whatever art objects, something has modern as Rothko, as Kline, the Rice Museum. I do think it’s an indication of their great open-mindedness, and I think this same quality is exhibited in the chapel. They themselves are Catholics, what are commonly called good Catholics, staunch Catholics, but they’re open-minded about all religions. However, Dominique makes a very strong point of the fact that she doesn’t believe in having religions watered down, so that the chapel becomes a place where everybody joins into one common form of worship. She believes that whatever you are, you should really be strongly, and if you are converted for one reason or another, let it not be because you came to the Rothko Chapel.
Somebody at the Human Rights awards program last June asked her how she got to be the way she is. It was a very good question. It was asked by the New York Times reporter. He said—well, it’s well known that she came from Schlumberger parents—rich. “How is it you have this strong, strong feeling about human rights?” She said, “I don’t know.” She said, “When I was little, I was scared of everything. I was afraid to disobey my mother. I was afraid to disobey the teachers in school.” She said, “I really ran scared all of my young life,” but then she said, “I grew up and—I don’t know—something happened.”
I: Isn’t it marvelous?
AM: When she said it, she was just like,—you know—so that’s the way it is.
I: Well, they have certainly done so much for Houston and for the cultural side of Houston, as well as the humanitarian side of Houston, that it’s hard to take Houston as a growing city and imagine what it would’ve been without the de Menils.
AM: Yes. It would’ve been dreadful, I feel, because when we came here in ’45, they were not yet active. Their first art venture here, I think, was contemporary arts. I remember that the contemporary arts had a little triangular building, an A-line building, and they brought a Van Gogh exhibit. I’ve never seen so many—I’d only seen one or two original Van Gogh’s in my life, and to just have a whole room full was just tremendous. That was my first knowledge, and, of course, since then they’ve been connected with many other progressive things or art programs. Of course, some people say, “Well, they want to run what they support.” Then the usual follow-up comment to that is, “And they’re usually right.”
I: Well, up to now, there hasn’t been anything with their name on it, and I’m thrilled that the museum will have it.
AM: At last, and—you know—she really—when she announced the museum plans, she was really very cute. That’s hardly the word you use for her, but she was cute that night. She said, “I don’t want my name on anything. John and I don’t want our name on anything.” There had been talk about calling it a Menil chapel. They wouldn’t go for that. She said, finally she was persuaded that—like there is the Philips Collection and the Rockefeller Collection—she was finally persuaded that there was only one name to give it, and that was the Menil Collection. She doesn’t like the word museum because, as she says, museums are dead places. You know—the Menil museum will have changing exhibits all the time.
I: Oh, I think it’s very exciting.
AM: Of course, I’m so fortunate. My house is within walking distance, 2 blocks away.
I: Anne, thank you so much for this wonderful interview, and I hope we’ll be able to come back and ask you more questions if we need to.
AM: Oh, I hope I haven’t said the wrong things. I just—
I: You did a marvelous job. It’s been wonderful. Thank you.
[Tape ends] (43:47)