Blanton Museum of Art
The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin has completed its campaign for the construction and fabrication of Ellsworth Kelly's Austin, a monumental, freestanding structure that has opened to the public on February 2018.
After Ellsworth Kelly gifted the building design to the Blanton in 2015, the museum began working to realize Austin, one of Ellsworth Kelly’s last works, and certainly one of his greatest. The 2,715-square-foot stone building has luminous glass windows on three façades. Inside are a wood totem sculpture and black-and-white marble panels featuring signature Kelly shapes.
Blanton Museum visitors will be able to enter the work, an experience akin to visiting the Rothko and Matisse chapels, in Houston and Vence, France, respectively. Kelly stated that he conceived the project “without a religious program,” and envisioned it as a site for joy and contemplation. It is the first and only freestanding building the artist designed.
"The opening of Austin further cements the Blanton as an international cultural destination," continued Simone Wicha. "The broad geographic support we received for this project is reflective of the audience we anticipate visiting Kelly's monumental achievement."
Austin will open alongside Form into Spirit: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, a Blanton exhibition that will contextualize the museum's important new addition by telling its story in relation to Kelly's broader career. One section will explore Kelly's use of the color grid, for example. This motif can be seen in Austin’s front façade windows, and in Form into Spirit’s Spectrum IV (1967), a significant painting that will come to the Blanton from New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Yet another section will explore Kelly's totems.
"This is an exhibition that will satisfy newcomers and Kelly aficionados alike," said Carter E. Foster, the Blanton’s Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and curator of the show. Kelly’s conceptual underpinnings for this work can be traced back to his time studying in France on the GI Bill from 1948 to 1954, a seminal part of his early life. The lasting influence of his experience there is evident in Austin.