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The Art of Business

Luncheon Series in Houston

Art of Business Logo

The idea for this series was born when Professor Nicholas Adams of the Art History Department of Meril Markley's alma mater, Vassar College, invited her back to campus to share with students the story of her improbable career in international business after studying Art and Music at Vassar. After her visit to Vassar, she realized that she had met many professionals who were passionate about the Arts but with "day jobs" devoted to law, accounting, banking, real estate, etc. She had also encountered musicians who embraced the world of business in achieving artistic success. This series showcases personal passions for arts-related projects while sharing a scrumptious meal and networking with like-minded individuals. Credit for making the series a reality is owed to the three institutions included in the logo. Entrepreneur Constance Bost became Executive Director of the French American Chamber of Commerce of Houston and embraced the project. Support from the International Friends of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna arose from the Habsburg Splendor exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Meril's subsequent meeting with Sabine Haag and Florian Pollack at KHM in Vienna. Echoing the entrepreneurial theme and dedication to the dynamic middle market, RSM US LLP and its Office Managing Partner in Houston, Tom Rourick, joined with the two nonprofits to launch the series at Etoile Cuisine et Bar in March of 2016.

The events are open to everyone, with information available at the FACC (French American Chamber of Commerce).

Our next luncheon will feature Rosa Flores, documentary filmmaker and intrepid correspondent for CNN who traded in a career as a CPA with a "Big 4" accounting firm for the chance to tell interesting stories and cover major events around the globe.

In recent years, Art of Business expanded to New York under the auspices of distinguished Austrian tax lawyer, Beate Erwin. Held at the Austrian Cultural Forum, over cocktails rather than lunch, these annual events include presentations by individuals associated with the Kunshistorisches Museum. The theme of the most recent one, held on May 18, 2023, was Creating International Exhibitions and featured a lecture by Sabine Haag, General Director of the Museum.

For more information, contact Meril Markley (mbmarkley@mmarkley.com or 832.876.7895)

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

Antoine Plante, Conductor, Mercury

In Tune with his Market - Antoine Plante, Artistic Director and Conductor of Mercury

For almost twenty years, Antoine Plante has led Mercury and built it from a group of students at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music into one of Houston's leading cultural organizations bringing orchestral music to audiences throughout our community and to its schools. His approach to music of the Baroque and beyond is not just about conducting it, but having audiences come to share how he feels about each work. This passion, coupled with an entrepreneur's instincts for commercial success, were on display in Antoine's remarks to attendees at our luncheon on October 10 in the Wine Room at Etoile Cuisine et Bar in Uptown Park.

Mercury Houston. Click to download the program.

Art of Business October 10, 2019

Antoine Plante speaking in the Wine Room at Etoile Cuisine et Bar

Beethoven by Waldmueller

Beethoven by Waldmüller from the Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Conrad Johnson

The Accidental Winemaker - Conrad Johnson, Founder of AWI Wines

Conrad Johnson, by training a CPA and an auditor with thirty-seven years of experience, began his walk on the wild side more than ten years ago when winding up a business trip to Argentina. He decided to start a vineyard in the Uco Valley, a new wine producing area in the country’s renowned Mendoza province, and named his wines for what it was — “A Wild Idea” or “AWI.” Frequent trips to plant the first vines, then to harvest the grapes and blend his wines, have been part of Conrad’s journey in becoming an award-winning winemaker. For our luncheon on March 21, 2019 at Chef Soren Pedersen's, not only did we hear about AWI Wines but we got to taste them.

Click to download the program.

Art of Business March 21, 2019

Meril Markley, Conrad Johnson (AWI), Nancy Wakefield (RSM), Ed Dent (Wine Society of Texas)

Rechenmeister by Barthel Beham

The Math Expert by Barthel Beham from the Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Matt Register, Host of Texas Business Radio

Finding the Entrepreneur's Voice - Matt Register, Founder of Texas Business Radio

Matt personifies the art of identifying opportunities and developing them into successful businesses. For our fourth quarter luncheon on December 5, 2018 at Artisans, he shared with us how experiences such as playing football at West Point, serving as an Army Captain on combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, learning his family’s manufacturing business from the inside out, and advising middle market companies as an investment banker, led him to establish “the entrepreneur’s voice.” Heard on stations all over Texas (including KTRH and KPRC in Houston), Matt showcases other entrepreneurs and the advisors who help them.

Texas Business Radio. Click to download the program.

Matt Register at Art of Business

Lynn Kealy (RSM), Matt Register, Aurore Ladeveze (FACC), Meril Markley

Schloss Hof Garden Side

Schloss Hof Garden Side by Canaletto from the Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Helga Aurisch

The Great American Entrepreneur-Collectors - Helga Aurisch, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

For the third quarter of 2018, Dr. Helga Kessler Aurisch, Curator of European Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was our speaker for the luncheon at Frank's Americana Revival. Her discussion included the history of the Straus Collection of Renaissance Art, whose donation put the MFAH on the map, and of other great collections whose works now populate American museums. Born in Germany, Helga came to New York with her family, as a child, and holds an undergraduate degree from Smith College. Her master's degree and PhD are in Art History from the University of Freiburg. Since coming to MFAH in 2004, she has organized a number of exhibits including Tudors to Windsor: British Royal Portraiture from Holbein to Warhol (October 7, 2018 to January 27, 2019).

For more information, go to the website of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Click to download the program.

Helga Aurisch Art of Business Luncheon

Helga Aurisch at Frank's Americana Revival

Holbein - Jane Seymour KHM

Portrait of Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour from the Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Andrew White

An Impresario for the 21st Century - Andrew White, The Verreaux Collective

On September 19, we had our inaugural luncheon in The Woodlands at Broken Barrel restaurant where our host was Chef/Owner, Hilda Ysusi. Our speaker was Andrew White, the founder and executive director of the Verreaux Collective, a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting chamber music concerts for The Woodlands, TX. Andrew is a Piano Performance major at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Verreaux's season of four concerts in The Woodlands are September 22 and October 20 in 2018 and January 19 and February 23 in 2019.

Click to download the program.

Andrew White Art of Business Luncheon

Broken Barrel in Hughes Landing, The Woodlands

flugel KHM

From the Musical Instrument Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna a Bösendorfer Piano made for the Emperor

Sergei Galperin

Enterprising Variations on a Theme - Sergei Galperin, Houston Symphony

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.

Sergei Galperin and Galperin Violin. Click to download the program.

Sergei Galperin at Art of Business

An impromptu performance at Chef Soren Pedersen's

lira-da-braccia KHM

A 16th century Lira da Braccio from the Musical Instrument Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Rebecca Rabinow

The Menil at Thirty - Rebecca Rabinow, Director of the Menil Collection

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.

To learn more, visit the Menil Collection. Click to download the program.

Geoffroy Petit, Meril Markley, Rebecca Rabinow, Nancy Wakefield

Geoffroy Petit (FACC), Meril Markley, Rebecca Rabinow (Menil), Nancy Wakefield (RSM)

menil collection

North facade entrance to the Menil Collection (photograph by Kevin Keim)

Shanna Hennig - Winston Art Group

Smart Art - Best Practices for Acquiring, Managing, and Planning for Collections - Shanna Hennig, Winston Art Group

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's presentation included her experiences in helping with all aspects of collections, of everything from fine art to wines, to classic cars. 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 clients’ alternative assets.

Shanna can be reached at Winston Art Group. Click to download the program.

lunch at Chef Soren Petersen's

Lunch at Chef Soren Pedersen's

Saliera KHM

Saliera by Benvenuto Cellini from the Kunstkammer at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Ann Weisgarber

Taking a Novel Approach to Business - Ann Weisgarber

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. 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. Her 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. Ann’s second novel, The Promise, takes place in 1900 on Galveston Island at the time of the Great Hurricane, America’s worst natural disaster. The book was short-listed 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 devastated the Gulf Coast. We were haunted by its characters and Ann's vivid depiction of the 1900 storm.

Visit her website to learn more about Ann Weisgarber. Click to download the program.


Meril Markley (RSM), Ann Weisgarber, Tom Rourick (RSM), Joana Videgain (FACC)

storm at sea KHM

Storm at Sea by Jan Bruegel the Younger From the Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Albina Shagimuratova

The Business of Being an Opera Singer - Albina Shagimuratova

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 Business 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 Mozart’s 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 at the world's leading venues including Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala Milan, Vienna State Opera, San Francisco Opera, Bolshoi Theatre, and Los Angeles Opera. 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.

Pidgirsky, Shagimuratova, Galitzine, Markley

Andrew Pidgirsky (USRCC), Albina Shagimuratova, Princess Maria Anna Galitzine, Meril Markley (RSM)

Emperor Joseph II KHM

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 --

France Pavilion

Making Your Passion for Art into a Successful Business - Sebastian Laboureau

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

Sebastian Laboureau discussing the exhibits

Teniers KHM

The Collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm by David Teniers from the Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Bruce Patterson of Patterson & Sheridan

Striking the Right Chord When Safeguarding Your Brand - Bruce Patterson, Patterson & Sheridan

For the fourth quarter of 2016, our speaker was 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). Bruce shared the story about how his efforts prevented the entry into the U.S. market of counterfeit guitars from China and protected his client's intellectual property.

For more about intellectual property law, visit Patterson & Sheridan. Click to download the program.

Bruce Patterson Playing Guitar

Bruce Patterson performing on his own guitar

Portrait of Man with Stringed Instrument KHM

Portrait of a Young Man with a Lira da Braccio (Unknown 16th Century Venetian Artist) from the Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

Gregory Servos of Ovation Data Services

Guardians of the Digital Galaxy - Gregory Servos, Ovation Data Services

Our third Art of Business luncheon featured 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 heritage for future generations.

Visit their website to learn more about Ovation Data Services. Click to download the program.

Presentation by Gregory Servos

Gregory Servos speaking at Masraff's

Tower of Babel KHM

The Tower of Babel (1563) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder From the Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Andrius Kontrimas of Norton Rose Fulbright

Looted, Lost and Stolen Art - Andrius Kontrimas, Norton Rose Fulbright

Our second Art of Business luncheon featured 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.

Visit his firm's website to learn more about Andrius Kontrimas. Click to download the program.


Luncheon at the Hotel Granduca

Artist's Studio KHM

The Art of Painting (c. 1667) by Johannes Vermeer from the Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Meril Markley Photo

No Time Toulouse - The Origins of Modern Corporate Governance in Medieval France - Meril Markley, RSM US LLP and M. Markley Antiques

The inaugural luncheon of Art of Business was on March 30, 2016 at Etoile Cuisine et Bar. Meril Markley told of discovering quite by accident, while preparing a speech on Sarbanes Oxley in 2003, 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 such as those that led to the demise of Enron and which ensured that free markets would flourish.

Click to download the article. Click to download the program.

Etoile Cuisine
Meril Markley

In planning for and carrying out this luncheon series, 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.

Constance Bost FACC
Constance Bost, Executive Director, FACC
Geoffroy Petit FACC
Geoffroy Petit, President, FACC
Tom Rourick RSM US LLP
Tom Rourick, Office Managing Partner, RSM Houston Office
joana videgain FACC
Joana Videgain, former Executive Director, FACC
Sabine Haag and Barry Margolis
Dr. Sabine Haag, General Director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, with Barry Margolis of RSM
Baerbel-Holaus-Heintschel IFKHM
Bärbel Holaus-Heitschel, International Friends of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna