Arts / Museums

Houston’s Stunning Rothko Chapel Helps Build a Bridge Between the Bayou City and France — Examining a 100 Year Friendship

An Education Push Powered by Rice University

BY Mia De Los Reyes // 02.15.24
photography Hung L. Truong

To celebrate 100 years of harmony between France and Houston, French minister for foreign trade Olivier Becht appeared at Houston’s sacred Rothko Chapel for a special event. Prominent names in the Bayou City tech, space, and energy worlds were in attendance, alongside French Consul General Valérie Baraban, Rothko Chapel executive David Leslie and deputy mayor Martha Castex-Tatum.

The night focused on reflection and remembrance, showcasing the future of education, culture, energy and science while elaborating upon pieces of history. 

David Leslie, Olivier Becht, Martha Castex-Tatum celebrate 100 Years of Friendship at Rothko Chapel (Photo by Hung L. Truong)
David Leslie, Olivier Becht, Martha Castex-Tatum at Celebrating 100 Years of Friendship at Rothko Chapel (Photo by Hung L. Truong)

“The wealth of Houston is its people,” Becht says. “This is true of all new frontiers, but it is even truer in Houston, where the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and vibrant. You can feel the energy of those who take on challenges with courage and determination. Houston is a Can-Do City.”

Stories were shared about the global French technology company Schlumberger (SLB), Menil Museum founders and art collectors Dominique and John de Menil and the nonprofit organization the Alliance Française de Houston. 

The influence of the French and Houston partnerships reveals itself through various accomplishments. Founded by Edgar Odell Lovett, The Alliance Française de Houston has poured French culture into the Houston community. Lovett became the first president of the world renowned Rice University. Rice Paris Global Center became the university’s first overseas academic branch in 2022. 

“Just last week, the Rice Space Institute hosted a high-level seminar on space exploration in Paris,” Becht notes. “Rice is a structural bridge between Paris and Houston nourishing the link between our two peoples through education and research.”

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Y Ping Sun, David Leebron, Valérie Baraban, Olivier Becht, Lynn Wyatt (1)
Y. Ping Sun & David Leebron, Consul General Valérie Baraban, Olivier Becht, Lynn Wyatt at Celebrating 100 Years of Friendship at Rothko Chapel (Photo by Hung L. Truong)

The Rothko Chapel accommodated 115 honorable guests, transforming the space into an environment full of knowledge and appreciation. Attendees indulged in delectable French appetizers from Top Chef France finalist Kévin D’Andrea. Tarte de saumon, croquette d’ aligot and croque monsieur a la truffe were paired with champagne. BCI’s beverage co-founder and president Jean-Francois Bonneté sponsored the elegant celebration. 

With the goal of strengthening the French and Houstonian friendship, advancements in connecting through education are on the rise.

“France looks forward to working ever more closely with the University of Houston, as it does with other players in the educational and academic world,” Becht says. “The Consulate General of France is fully committed to this approach.” 

Houston’s Rothko Chapel is one of the city’s greatest examples of building a community based on education and art appreciation. The relationship between France and Houston is prominent. Currently, the Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris proudly exhibits Rothko’s pieces, emphasizing the continuation of this partnership between two of the most innovative cities in the world. 

“Rothko is one of many bridges between France and Houston,” Becht says. “In Houston, you have dreams and you dream big. Let’s dream together. Let’s make change together. Let’s see how France and Houston together can shape the future.” 

PC Seen: Sandija Bayot, Marc Bloom, Kathy and Martyn Goossen, Katherine Ho, Ann Stern, Edouard Kopp, Arturo Machuca, Heather Beck, Suhail Arastu, Carol and David Neuberger, Karla Cisneros, John Eldridge, and Alexander David.

Attend Rothko Chapel spring benefit Inspirit: Rothko Chapel’s Evening of Inspiration, chaired by Maire and David Baldwin and honoring Cheech Marin, Dolores Huerta, and Vincent Valdez, at The Astorian, 2500 Summer St., Wednesday, March 6 from 6 pm to 9 pm. Online art auction curated by McClain Gallery’s Robert McClain and artist John Alexander. For more information and tickets, go here.

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