Blanton Museum of Art to Raise Money for New Piece

March 4, 2015

The Blanton Museum of Art has made plans to raise $15 million for a new work of art, a stone building with colored glass windows titled Austin by artist Ellsworth Kelly.

The purpose of Austin is to serve as a nondenominational “place of calm and light,” Kelly said in a press release from the Blanton. The 73-by-60 foot stone building will contain a wooden totem sculpture, marble panels and multiple luminous stained glass windows, and will be built in a greenspace connected to Jester Beach on the north side of the Blanton’s Faulkner Plaza. Blanton director Simone Wicha and modern art curator Veronica Roberts are overseeing the funding of the project.

“It is a great privilege for the Blanton to share the vision of one of the greatest artists of our time,” Wicha said. “Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin will be a joyful place of inspiration on The University of Texas campus, welcoming millions of visitors from around the world.”

Kelly has been an abstract painter and sculptor for over 70 years, and his work has been featured in museums across the United States and Europe. He won the National Medal of Arts in 2013.

Austin is the only building that Kelly has designed, and will be the first time the artist has worked with stone and glass, according to the Blanton’s press release.

“His Austin project will be unique in that the building has itself been designed by Kelly for an aesthetic purpose entirely integrated with the art objects that it will contain,” said Dr. Richard Shiff, an art history professor and a scholar of Kelly. “This is likely to be the most fully integrated aesthetic space that Kelly will have the opportunity to create.”

Although Austin was originally commissioned in 1986 for a private collector, Kelly preferred for it to be open to the public. Kelly says that the piece was inspired by Parisian architecture that he saw while studying art in France from 1948 to 1954, according to the press release.

Austin is part of a journey that began nearly 70 years ago,” Kelly said. “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.”

Nearly half of the $15 million project budget has been raised so far through donations to the university, including $2 million from Jeanne and Michael Klein, $2 million from Suzanne Deal Booth and David G. Booth, and $3 million from the Blanton family.

According to the museum’s public relations director Kathleen Stimpert, there is not yet an estimated date of completion.

“Construction will begin when all money is raised,” Stimpert said. “Once construction begins, it is estimated to take approximately one year to complete.”

The acquisition of Austin is expected to help invigorate the art community at the University of Texas and in Austin, according to Wicha and Stimpert.

“This work will help to further establish Austin as a vibrant cultural destination,” Stimpert said. “Ellsworth Kelly is truly an American treasure and it is a coup for UT and for the city of Austin to be the recipient of this magnificent work of art.”

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