Best Restoration Project - 2000
After a year and a half with its doors shut for a $1.8 million face-lift, the Rothko Chapel reopened in June, radiating renewed richness in its muted simplicity. The renovation work reached from the ground up, bringing the shrine closer to what Rothko had intended, says Suna Umari, the chapel's executive director. The brick structure's foundation was elevated, the roof and skylight were replaced, and the famous paintings got a much-needed sprucing up. The work paid off. The canvases never looked better. Their violet, charcoal and jet-black surfaces are generous receptacles for spiritual yearnings and add deep layers to the chapel's silence. The new skylight and baffle are a particularly effective stroke, distributing light onto the whole of the canvases, where before light spilled onto the upper halves only. The eight interior walls are the color of raw cement. They join the canvases, stone floor, wood benches and black meditation rugs to evoke the sparseness of a Shinto temple or an otherworldly crypt.