One of the richest stashes of art in America is found deep in the heart of Oil Country: The 1.5-mile radius of Houston’s Museum District is home to 19 places to interact with art. And in 2016, several museums, including the Menil Collection, are planning expansions. Perhaps the most transformative experience can be found at the Rothko Chapel. The 14 abstract Mark Rothko paintings that line the walls are monumental—the construction crew actually had to crack the roof open and lower them in by crane—and that’s part of their cathartic appeal. As you’re looking up at a canvas of infinitesimal strokes, one moment, Rothko’s colors appear to be black. Then a ray of light from the ceiling’s aperture catches them just right, and blacks fade to deep purples and blues. When you snap out of your reverie and realize you’ve been staring for half an hour, a wave of calm washes over you.

See all in “The Next Great Art Cities.”

Clare Elliot, assistant curator for the Menil Collection, tells the story behind Houston’s most influential art figures.

More Art to Experience

Menil Collection
The most prominent establishment in Houston’s Museum district, the Menil Collection contains everything from African art and antiquities, to Byzantine work and surrealism, which the museum is most known for. Don’t miss Dan Flavin’s light installation—otherwise known as the most Instagrammable spot in town.
1533 Sul Ross St., (713) 525-9400

The Museum of Fine Arts
An encyclopedic museum, one of the largest in the U.S., with highlights that include a stunning Mies van der Rohe addition (and the only museum he ever designed in the U.S.) and James Turrell’s trippy underground tunnel, The Light Inside.
1001 Bissonnet St., (713) 639-7300

Station Museum
Housed in an old gas station, the exhibitions focus on social and political change—and the diversity of Houston’s population. Recent solo shows have featured sculptor Andrei Molodkin, who makes his work out of materials and technology used in the oil industry, and multimedia artist Mel Chin, who was born in Houston to Chinese parents.
1502 Alabama St., (713) 529-6900

Project Row Houses
These 22 shotgun-style homes (if you look through one window you can see to the rest), an early form of public housing in Houston, are now dedicated to public works and social services. The majority is rotating art, literary, and photography projects—and a few provide transitional housing for unwed mothers.
2521 Holman St., (713) 526-7662

What else to see in Houston

This appeared in the October, 2015 issue.