Blanton Museum to build Ellsworth Kelly building

Rendering of Ellsworth Kelly's "Austin" building.
Rendering of Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” building.

The Blanton Museum of Art will announce Friday that it has acquired and will build Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin,” 2,715squarefoot stone building.

One of the most important figures of post-war American abstract art, Kelly originally conceived of the building in 1986 for a private collector. However the work was never realized. The artist has said it has always been his intention for it to exist in perpetuity in a public space.

The building — with luminous colored glass windows, a totemic wood sculpture and 14 blackandwhite stone panels in marble — will be sited on the grounds of the Blanton  on the University of Texas campus.

The 91-year-old Kelly  gifted his design concept for the project to the Blanton.

Austin is part of a journey that began nearly 70 years ago,” he said in a statement.

Rendering of interior of Ellsworth Kelly's "Austin" building.
Rendering of interior of Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” building.

“In Boston in 1947, as an art student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, I discovered a 12thcentury fresco in the museum’s collection that made a tremendous impression on me. Later, when I was living and working in Paris, I would put my bike on a train and visit early architectural sites all over France. I was intrigued by Romanesque and Byzantine art and architecture. While the simplicity and purity of these forms had a great influence on my art, I conceived this project without a religious program. I hope visitors will experience Austin as a place of calm and light. 

Construction is to begin after the Blanton raises $15 million.

To date $7 million has raised including $2 million each from Austin donors Jeanne and Michael Klein, and from Suzanne Deal Booth and David G. Booth. The Blanton family has donated $3 million .

Beyond the $15 million project budget, UT President Bill Powers has committed $1 million to the project with funds coming from the earnings of University’s Longhorn Network.

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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