This October, the Kimbell Art Museum celebrates the 50th anniversary of its landmark building, designed by Louis I. Kahn, and the opening of the museum in 1972. The Kahn Building—widely recognized as one of the most significant works of modern architecture—has influenced museum design for five decades. In honor of the museum’s golden anniversary and Kahn’s monumental design, the Kimbell has acquired three pastel and charcoal drawings of the Temple of Apollo at Corinth, which are part of a small, remarkable group of pastels that the architect created while traveling in Italy, Egypt, and Greece during his tenure as Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome (1950-51).
Among Kahn’s finest, most original pictorial works, the new acquisitions offer insight into his creative thought as an architect and showcase his interest in light as he masterfully captures the changing shadows and silhouettes across the Temple of Apollo in Corinth at different times throughout the day. These profound and poetic meditations on ancient Greek architecture reflect the artist’s deep interest in the color of daylight and its complementary hues – an interest that is perhaps most perfectly realized in the architect’s influential design for the Kimbell Art Museum.
The pastels embody Kahn’s quest to capture the essence of antiquity and feature swift, confident strokes and bold, expressionistic color. The creation of these drawings precipitated a breakthrough that allowed Kahn to escape the restrictions of the aloof international style and infuse the gravitas of antiquity into his architecture. The pastels especially resonate with Kahn’s crowning achievement in the construction of the Kimbell.
“The feeling for light, form, and antiquity manifested in the pastels of the Temple of Apollo informed Kahn’s later design for the Kimbell. It is fitting that the pastels should find a permanent home in his Texas masterpiece,” said Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. “I could not be more delighted.”
The Kimbell acquired the three works from Louis I. Kahn’s daughter, Sue Ann Kahn. The pastels return to the museum after previously being on view in the Kimbell’s 2017 focus exhibition The Color of Light, The Treasury of Shadows: Pastels by Louis I. Kahn from the Collections of His Children. They will be installed in the new exhibition The Kimbell at 50 (October 2022–October 2023), which includes a digital interactive presentation and highlights the museum’s outstanding acquisitions, noteworthy exhibitions, and rewarding community experiences that reflect the pillars of excellence that have endured for 50 years. The exhibition opening event on Tuesday, October 4 marks the commencement of yearlong anniversary programming and will feature a roster of speakers, including Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker and Kimbell curators, as well as special tours of the buildings, the permanent collection, and special exhibitions. Details are available at kimbellart.org/50.
A Half Century of Excellence
An icon from its start, the Kimbell is recognized as one of the premier art institutions of the United States and represents a high standard of excellence that is reflected across its collections, exhibitions, architecture, and community programs. Established by the Kimbell Art Foundation, which was founded in 1936 by Fort Worth entrepreneur Kay Kimbell and his wife Velma, the museum brings together its collection of master works from antiquity to the mid-20th century in an architectural masterpiece, encouraging exceptional encounters with artworks of definite excellence in an intimate and unparalleled setting.
“With his building for the Kimbell, Kahn reintroduced history, monumentality, and solidity to architecture. Evocative of ancient Roman warehouses, the structure imbues the museum grounds with a strong sense of antiquity,” said Lee.
Since its opening in 1972, the Kimbell Art Museum has been a cultural force in Fort Worth and around the globe. The institution organizes important international loan exhibitions, hosts major traveling exhibitions and is renowned for its significant contributions to art historical scholarship through its research, publications, and conservation efforts. Upcoming and recent special exhibitions organized by the Kimbell include Murillo: From Heaven to Earth (September 18, 2022, through January 29, 2023), a groundbreaking exhibition focusing on the artist’s earthly pictures of secular subjects and representations of everyday life in the 17th century; Queen Nefertari’s Egypt (2021); and Monet: The Late Years (2019).
The permanent collection comprises 350 works, including European masterpieces such as The Torment of Saint Anthony—the earliest known painting by Michelangelo Buonarroti—Caravaggio’s Cardsharps, Monet’s Point de la Hève at Low Tide, and Picasso’s classic Cubist painting from 1911, Man with a Pipe; important collections of Egyptian and classical antiquities; and Asian, ancient American, and African art such as the exquisite terracotta Head, Possibly a King from the Ife culture of Nigeria. The museum’s approach to acquisitions prioritizes single works of outstanding merit and aesthetic quality—and those that engage in thoughtful dialogue with the permanent collection—over encyclopedic completeness.
The Kimbell’s architecture reinforces this modus operandi; the intimate scale of Kahn’s galleries brings the collection together in close proximity, while the layout permits dramatic vistas and sightlines that frame artworks in interesting ways, encouraging unique perspectives and contrasts between objects. The Kahn Building infuses the interior with natural light, creating a robust connection between inside and out, and providing paramount conditions for viewing art that morph with the time of day.
In 2013, the addition of the Renzo Piano Pavilion, which takes visual cues from the Kahn Building, nearly doubled the amount of gallery space while providing much needed educational space and a 249-seat auditorium. Together, the two buildings complement each other to create a tranquil and contemplative campus that appeals to all the senses.
Currently on display at the museum is SLAY: Artemisia Gentileschi and Kehinde Wiley (on view until October 9, 2022), which brings together two depictions of women in dramatic acts of courageous defiance and female empowerment—one by celebrated Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, the other by acclaimed American contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley.