The Rice-Ko project began four years ago when our interest was piqued by the news reports of a famous Rothko painting being defaced in London’s Tate gallery. It turned out to be one of Rothko’s famed Seagram murals, one of many he was commissioned to do in 1958 by the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City.

Rothko originally accepted the commission, but soon came to resent it for many reasons. He famously quoted saying that he wanted to “upset, offend and torture” the diners at the Four Seasons and hoped to “ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room.” Rothko despised the fact that the restaurant represented everything he stood against in particular the rich and elite of New York Society. So after spending a year and a half creating 30 paintings, Rothko gave back the money and took back his paintings. Never did they grace the walls of the Four Seasons Restaurant.

As fate would have it, several years later we heard of the news of the closing of the Four Seasons Restaurant after almost 60 years. This iconic restaurant represented so many things to so many people. It was one of the first to introduce seasonal cooking into the mainstream. It was at the forefront of the food movement long before there was one, and for many years was considered to be the best restaurant in New York City. And on the other hand it is where the “power lunch” was invented and still to this day represents those things that Rothko had so long ago despised.

We wanted to pay homage to both sides of this story, both Rothko and the restaurant. We used famous Rothko paintings, but instead of recreating the original Seagram Murals, we opted to celebrate the glorious food and innovation. Each piece represents an iconic element or dish from the restaurant’s history and even contains rice from the restaurant’s kitchen. While not as dark and serious as the original murals we hope to have successfully merged the worlds of food and art, and honored the legacy of both.

a collaboration between Henry Hargreaves and Caitlin Levin