The Art of Business

Quarterly Luncheon Series in Houston and The Woodlands

The idea for this series was born when my alma mater, Vassar College, invited me back to campus to share with students my improbable career in international business after earning a degree in Music and training as an opera singer in Vienna.  It occurred to me that I'd met many other professionals in Houston who were passionate about the Arts but with "day jobs" devoted to law, accounting, banking, real estate, etc.  This series showcases their personal passion for arts-related projects while sharing a scrumptious meal and networking with like-minded individuals.  

The events are open to everyone, with information available on the website of the French American Chamber of Commerce.

Links to past programs and photos from the events are below, as well as information on our upcoming programs.

Meril Markley


The series is expanding to the Woodlands, and will hold its first luncheon there on Wednesday, September 19 at Broken Barrel on Restaurant Row in Hughes Landing.  Our speaker will be young entrepreneur Andrew White, founder of  the Verreaux Collective, a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting professional chamber music concerts exclusively for The Woodlands and beginning on September 22.  Click to read the press release.

Our third quarter luncheon in Houston will be at Frank's Americana Revival on September 27, entitled Great American Entrepreneur-Collectors, and featuring Dr. Helga Kessler Aurisch, Curator of European Art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.  She will detail how some of the 20th centuryís captains of industry amassed European masterpieces for their personal collections.  Eventually these works made their way to museums, including MFAH, where they are available for everyone to enjoy.  The luncheon offers a fascinating peek into the personalities and the process.  Helga brings to Art of Business a rich and wide-ranging experience at the crossroads of culture and commerce, including exhibits for MFAH.  The 2016 exhibit, entitled High Society: The Portraits of Franz X. Winterhalter, featured paintings  of European aristocracy alongside gowns designed by Charles Frederick Worth, the father of haute couture.


We thank RSM US LLP and its Houston office leader, Tom Rourick, and senior director Nancy Wakefield for their commitment to this project at the crossroads of culture and commerce in Houston.  Constance Bost, Executive Director of the French American Chamber of Commerce has been our unflagging advocate in starting this series and in spurring participation by members of the Chamber.  While Constance was away from the Chamber, Joana Videgain ensured the series' successes and growth.  On the heels of the Habsburg Splendor exhibits in the U.S.of works from the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) in Vienna, its International Friends organization is our third sponsor, with the enthusiastic support of the museum's General Director, Dr. Sabine Haag, its former Director of Communications, Florian Pollack, and the head of the Friends initiative, Baerbel Holaus-Heintschel.  We are very grateful to KHM for permitting us to use works from its collections as cover art for the programs.


Photos and links to the programs for each of the past luncheons


Sergei Galperin



Our second quarter luncheon, Enterprising Variations on a Theme, featured Sergei Galperin, member of the First Violin Section of the Houston Symphony and dealer in stringed instruments.  Sergei's presentation involved playing various violins and using different bows, while challenging us to hear the differences and gauge their impact on value.  He discussed career choices available to him as a child growing up in the old Soviet Union, and why he chose music over hockey and violin over flute.  It was fascinating to learn how non-musicians invest in stringed instruments when seeking tangible assets that will appreciate in value, are portable, and can be stored in a gun safe!  Better yet, these valuable instruments should be played.  They are especially useful when lent to young soloists as they launch their careers and yearn for a magnificent violin with which to express themselves.  A delicious lunch was catered by Chef Soren Pedersen at his eponymous location in the Montrose Area.  Our Master of Ceremonies was Nancy Wakefield of RSM with Constance Bost, Executive Director of FACC, introducing Sergei.  Click to download the program.



Sergei Galperin at Art of Business

Sergei Galperin



Artwork for the program's cover was a 16th century

Lira da Braccio from  KHM's Musical Instrument Collection in Vienna



For the first quarter of 2018, our speaker was Dr. Rebecca Rabinow, Director of the Menil Collection, for a luncheon held at Restaurant Cinq in the Colombe D'or Hotel.  Entitled, The Menil at Thirty, Rebecca recounted the history of the Collection as well as Dominique and John de Menil's early days in Houston as transplants from France.  She also told us of how her passion for art was kindled by time spent as an intern at the Menil Collection shortly after the museum opened.  After 26 years as a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Rebecca returned to Houston in 2016 to lead the Menil Collection.  Click to download the program.



Geoffroy Petit, Meril Markley, Rebecca Rabinow, Nancy Wakefield

Geoffroy Petit (FACC), Meril Markley (IFKHM),

Rebecca Rabinow (Menil Collection),

Nancy Wakefield (RSM)


menil collectoin

Artwork for the program's cover was the north facade entrance

to the Menil Collection (photograph by Kevin Keim)


Our fourth quarter 2017 luncheon was on, November 28, and featured Shanna Hennig of Winston Art Group.  It was held at Chef Soren Pedersen's in the Montrose area.  Entitled Smart Art -- Best Practices for Acquiring, Managing, and Planning for Collections, Shanna presentation included her experiences in helping ith all aspects of collections, of everything from fine art to wines, to classic cars.  Click to download the program.

Shanna Hennig - Winston Art Group

Shanna Hennig

Shanna Hennig combines an extensive background in finance and insurance with a life-long passion for the arts. Through multiple roles in industry segments ranging from art title insurance to fine art appraisal, Shanna has established a professional focus on supporting collectors and their trusted advisors in managing clientsí alternative assets. As Winston Art Groupís Southwest Director, Shanna manages a multi-state territory that stretches through the Rocky Mountains to Texas.

Shanna holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas Christian University, a Certificate of Fine Art Appraisal from The University of California, Irvine, is certified in Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, and is a member of the Appraiserís Association of America. Shanna is highly involved in the local arts and business communities. She is a member of the Dallas and Denver Estate Planning Councils, Denver Art Museum Contemporary Alliance Board of Directors, Menil Contemporaries, MFAH Museum Collectors.


Artwork for the program's cover was the Saliera

by Benvenuto Cellini from the Kunstkammer

at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna



On Wednesday, September 27, prize-winning author, Ann Weisgarber, was our speaker on Taking a Novel Approach to Business at a luncheon held at Smith & Wollensky in Highland Village.  Click to download the program.

Ann Weisgarber

Ann is the author of three historical novels.  In getting the first one published, she overcame numerous hurdles such as finding a literary agent and a publisher willing to take on an unknown writer.  She also learned how little say an author has in matters such as cover art and type face. This first novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, is set in the South Dakota Badlands in 1917 and was born of a haunting photograph Ann spotted in a local museum.  It won the Stephen Turner Award for New Fiction and the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction.  JuVee Productions has optioned the film rights and Viola Davis will play Rachel DuPree.  Filming is scheduled for 2018.

Annís second novel, The Promise, takes place in 1900 on Galveston Island at the time of the Great Hurricane, Americaís worst natural disaster.  The book was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, leading to a trip to Scotland and a stay in a castle.  Several of us finished reading The Promise just before Hurricane Harvey devasted the Gulf Coast.  We were haunted  by its characters and Ann's vivid depiction of the 1900 storm.  Lovers of classical music will be enchanted by Ann's ability to express throughout this book the impact of music on both performer and audience.  She is currently winding up work on The Glovemaker, which will be published in 2018. It is set in Utahís deep canyon country during the winter of 1888.

Meril Markley (RSM/IFKHM), Ann Weisgarber (Speaker),

Tom Rourick (RSM), Joana Videgain (FACC)


Artwork for the program's cover was Storm at Sea

by Jan Bruegel the Younger From the Collection

of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna


On Thursday, May 4, we welcomed opera superstar, Albina Shagimuratova, back to Houston for a luncheon at the Tasting Room in Uptown Park entitled The Art of Being an Opera Singer.


Albina shared what's involved with running the business of being an opera singer in a changing world while balancing her career and spending time with her family.

Her enchanting coloratura soprano first found international acclaim in 2007 when she won the Gold Medal in the Vocal Division of the International Tchaikovsky Competition. Soon after, she made her European opera debut as the Queen of the night in Mozartís The Magic Flute at the Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Riccardo Muti. Established as the leading interpreter of this fiendishly challenging role, she has performed it in other venues including Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala Milan (released on DVD), Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, San Francisco Opera, , Bolshoi Theatre, Los Angeles Opera, and Houston Grand Opera.

Albina Shagimuratova

Albina was appearing at Houston Grand Opera as Konstanze in Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio, a work commissioned by Habsburg Emperor Joseph II whose portrait is our featured work from the Kunsthistorisches Museum and whose descendant, Princess Maria Anna Galitzine, was among the guests at the luncheon.

Click to download the program

Andrew Pidgirsky (USRCC), Albina Shagimuratova (Speaker),

Princess Maria-Anna Galitzine (Habsburg),

Meril Markley (RSM/IFKHM)


 Artwork for the program's cover was

Emperor Joseph II with Archduke Leopold of Tuscany

by Pompeo Batoni from the Collection of the

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna






Our luncheon on Friday, March 3, 2017 was held in connection with the inaugural visit to Houston of --

 Making Your Passion for Art into a Successful Business

Our speaker was Sebastien Laboureau, International Art Curator, whose earlier career included investment banking at Goldman Sachs.  The luncheon was held at Winter Street Studios and catered by Le Mistral.  Sebastien led us on a tour of the exhibit of contemporary artists from France before discussing his personal journey from banker to curator.  Click to download the program.

Sebastien Laboureau


Artwork for the program's cover was

The Collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm

by David Teniers from the Collection of the

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna




Striking the Right Chord When Safeguarding Your Brand with Bruce Patterson, Intellectual Property Lawyer and Founding Partner of Patterson & Sheridan, who not only recounted his efforts on behalf of Taylor Guitars but played one of his own guitars for us (December 6, 2016 at Artisans Cuisine et Savoir Faire).  Click to download the program.

Bruce Patterson


Artwork for the program's cover was

Portrait of a Young Man with a Lira da Braccio

(Unknown 16th Century Venetian Artist) from the

Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna



Guardians of the Digital Galaxy, featuring Gregory Servos, President of Ovation Data Services, Inc. (September 13, 2016 at Masraff's).  Gregory recounted how his efforts at helping oil companies to find a common computer language for preserving their valuable libraries of seismic information led to helping film museums and television networks preserve their cultural heitage for future generations.  Click to download the program.


Gregory Servos


Artwork for the program's cover was The Tower of Babel (1563)

by Pieter Bruegel the Elder From the Collection of the

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna


Looted, Lost and Stolen Art featuring Andrius Kontrimas, Global Head of Tax for Norton Rose Fulbright law firm (June 7, 2016 at Hotel Granduca).  Andrius recounted how his early experience in probating an estate involving works of art led to a lifelong interest in helping to restitute works taken in the run-up to World War II, during the war itself, and in its aftermath behind the Iron Curtain.  Click to download the program.

Meril Markley (RSM/IFKHM), Andrius Kontrimas

(Norton Rose Fulbright), Tom Rourick (RSM)


Artwork for the program's cover was The Art of Painting

(c. 1667) by Johannes Vermeer from the

Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna




No Time Toulouse -- The Origins of Modern Corporate Governance in Medieval France by Meril Markley of RSM US LLP and M. Markley Antiques (March 30, 2016 at Etoile Cuisine et Bar).  Meril Markley told of discovering quite by accident, while preparing a speech on Sarbanes Oxley in 2004, that the first modern corporation had been founded as a power generation company in the 13th century in southwestern France.  It survived for more than 600 hundred years owing to a system of corporate governance which kept in check the impulses that led to the demise of Enron.  Click to download the program.



With special thanks to the following --

Constance Bost FACC

Constance Bost (FACC)


Geoffroy Petit FACC

Geoffroy Petit (FACC)

Tom Rourick RSM US LLP

Tom Rourick (RSM US LLP)

joana videgain FACC

Joana Videgain (FACC)


Sabine Haag and Barry Margolis

Dr. Sabine Haag (KHM) and Barry Margolis (RSM)

Baerbel-Holaus-Heintschel IFKHM

Baerbel Holaus-Heintschel (IFKHM)




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