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Austin meets ‘Austin’ with opening of Ellsworth Kelly’s internationally anticipated work

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Blanton Museum realizes major artist’s vision with completion of his only building design

Chapel-like stone artist-designed building with colored glass windows, black and white marble panels, and redwood totem
Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015 (South façade). Artist-designed building with installation of colored glass windows, black and white marble panels, and redwood totem
©Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. Courtesy Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin

Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, the artist’s chapel-like, stone structure recently completed outside the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT campus, will open to the public on Sunday, Feb. 18, with a dedication ceremony featuring remarks from Austin Mayor Steve Adler and University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves, along with other speakers and activities.

Also opening will be the Blanton’s complementary exhibition “Form into Spirit: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin,” which delves into the work’s conceptual origins. The 2,715-square-foot, freestanding work, which incorporates colored-glass windows, a totemic wood sculpture, and black-and-white marble panels, is the only building the late-modernist painter, printmaker, and sculptor designed, as well as being his final work.

Austin is not only a major addition to (and the new cornerstone of) the Blanton’s permanent collection; it’s also an internationally recognized work that is sure to become one of the city’s important landmarks. Kelly donated the building’s design to the Blanton in 2015. He said he “conceived the project ‘without a religious program,’ and envisioned it as a site for joy and contemplation” akin to Houston’s Rothko Chapel or Henri Matisse’s Rosary Chapel in Vence, France, according to the Blanton’s press materials.

Vaulted stone room with colored glass panels and sun shining through them
Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015 (Interior, facing south). Artist-designed building with installation of colored glass windows, black and white marble panels, and redwood totem
©Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. Courtesy Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin

After Kelly’s donation, the Blanton launched an ambitious and successful campaign to raise $23 million—which came from a broad geographic variety of donors and foundations, as well as generous local and state philanthropists and UT alumni—to complete the work. The work’s title was bestowed to honor the artist’s tradition of naming specific works after the places to which they are connected.

Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015 (East façade). Artist-designed building with installation of colored glass windows, black and white marble panels, and redwood totem
©Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. Photo courtesy Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin

“Form Into Spirit: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin,” the Blanton exhibition accompanying the opening of the building, will place the work in the context of Kelly’s career, exploring such themes as his use of the color grid and totems and going back at least as far as his studying in France on the GI Bill from 1948 to 1954, which had a large influence on his life and art. Below are a few images of works in the exhibit.

Ellsworth Kelly, Study for Spectrum V, 1969. Oil on canvas
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. Photo courtesy Ellsworth Kelly Studio
Ellsworth Kelly, Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance V, 1951 collage on paper
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. Photo courtesy Ellsworth Kelly Studio
Ellsworth Kelly, Curve XLII, 1984 zebrawood
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. Photo courtesy Ellsworth Kelly Studio

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