Ellsworth Kelly (1923- 2015) and his “Austin” pavilion

As news circulated about the death Tuesday of eminent abstract artist Ellsworth Kelly at age 92 on, so did mentions of what may become his last and most singular work:  a Kelly-designed 2,715-square-foot stone building destined for the University of Texas campus.

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

To be called “Austin” and situated outside the Blanton Museum of Art, the chapellike building will be constructed of pale stone with two arch-roofed rectangular volumes together forming a plus sign-shaped structure. Three of the short wings of the building will have colored glass windows at the end, each in a differing geometric pattern that will wash the interior with vibrant light. A fourth windowless wing will hold a totemic abstract wood sculpture. And 14 black-and-white marble panels with stark minimalist patterns will line the interior walls.

Kelly conceived of the building in 1986 for a private collector, but the work was never realized. The artist had said it had always been his intention for it to exist in perpetuity in a public space.

“ ‘Austin’ is part of a journey that began nearly 70 years ago,” Kelly said when news of the Blanton’s acquisition of the pavilion plans broke earlier this year.

“It has been a great honor to work with Ellsworth on Austin,” Blanton director Simone Wicha wrote in a posted statement on Wednesday.

kellyexterior“That brilliant sparkle of joy in his eyes that appeared every time that I saw him smile will be forever in my heart.”

The Blanton has one of Kelly’s major paintings in its collection, “High Yellow,” part of the collection of post-war American paintings donated to the museum by the late author James Michener.

The museum held a ground-breaking for the “Austin” project in October and is currently undertaking a $23 million campaign for its construction as well as to establish an endowment for the operation, care, and conservation of the pavilion and edevelop the grounds of the museum.

To date $20 million has been raised.

Ellsworth Kelly's "High Yellow"
Ellsworth Kelly’s “High Yellow”

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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