The only building the abstract artist ever designed opened this weekend at the University of Texas at Austin
In 2015 the 91-year-old American artist Ellsworth Kelly gave the design of a building he had been working on to The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, with the intention that the Blanton should build it within its grounds.
Kelly had conceived this chapel-like work of architecture – the only building he ever made – in 1986 for a private collector, and acknowledged that the high ceilings and stained glass had religious overtones.
However, unlike the Rothko Chapel in Houston or Henri Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, in France, Kelly's building – called simply ‘Austin’ – was always intended to be “without a religious program,” the artist said, envisioning it instead as a site for joy and contemplation.
Kelly passed away in December 2015, and so was unable to step into the completed building, which opened yesterday. Nevertheless, the 2,715-square-foot stone building follows his plans exactly, and now serves as a brilliant display space for Kelly’s wood totem sculpture and black-and-white marble panels with signature Kelly geometric shapes.
The opening coincides with a new exhibition at the Blanton, Form into Spirit: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, which will contextualize the museum's important new addition by telling its story in relation to Kelly's broader career.