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Construction of the $135 million expansion at Fort Worth’s Kimbell Art Museum is on target, with the grand opening of the Renzo Piano pavilion coinciding with a major, one-time-only exhibition of modern European art. The new building, designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genoa, Italy, and Kendall/Heaton Associates Inc. of Houston, will open to the public on Nov. 27.
“We have a jam-packed fall planned,” George T.M. Shackelford, senior deputy director of the Kimbell Art Museum, told an audience of about 60 people at The Stayton at Museum Way on Aug. 6. Shackelford gave the group a sneak peek of both the Piano building and the October opening of the exhibit, “The Age of Picasso And Matisse: Modern Masters From The Art Institute Of Chicago.”
Nearly 100 of the Art Institute’s most prominent masterpieces will be on view at the Kimbell from Oct. 6 to Feb. 16, 2014. This exhibition – a who’s who of works by a variety of artists including not only Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse but also Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti and Salvador Dalí – will tell the story of European art in the first half of the 20th century through the holdings of the Chicago museum. The show will, for the first time, allow residents and visitors in another American city to see and appreciate the Art Institute’s modern collection. “We’re terrifically excited. It’s a great opportunity and a great occasion,” Shackelford said. “It brings to us things that no museum in this part of the world is going to have. It’s exciting to have them here even on a temporary basis. It’s a really unprecedented exhibition in terms of their willingness to lend so many things, pieces that have never been out of Chicago before. And to have that on in the Kahn building when we open the Piano building is such a great meeting of two fantastic things to celebrate.” Construction on the Piano pavilion started in 2010, with funding from the Kimbell Art Foundation. Designed by Piano as a complement to the Kimbell’s landmark barrel-vaulted building of 1972 designed by Louis I. Kahn, the two-level, colonnaded building sits 65 yards to the west of the Kahn structure. Some 320 new trees have been planted, including 47 30-foot-tall elms, between the two buildings to re-establish the previous landscaping.
Renzo Piano is expected to attend the unveiling of his new museum in November, Shackelford said. The Piano expansion project grew out of the Kimbell’s desire to exhibit temporary and permanent collections at the same time as well as its need to extend the space for the museum’s education center, library, studios and offices. The new 81,748-square-foot structure also features a 19,200-square-foot green roof, a 400-seat auditorium and cafe, and a 250-space underground parking garage. The principal function of the new building’s southeast gallery space will be to display temporary exhibitions. Shackelford said that currently when the museum plans a temporary exhibit the majority of its 350-piece collection must be taken down and stored.
“For years, we’ve needed more room to show pieces from our collection. We don’t like to show only 25 or 30 pieces instead of being able to show 150 pieces from our collection. So we’re expanding,” he said. “Now we have enough room to always have the best things from the permanent collection out in great numbers as well as having a temporary show. It will allow us to do two things simultaneously, which we can’t do now.”
During a question-and-answer session after his presentation, Shackelford was asked whether the Kimbell might acquire any of the artworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts collection. The 60,000-plus works of art in the DIA’s collection are owned by the city of Detroit, and its bankruptcy has put the museum’s collection in jeopardy. Many art patrons fear that the collection could end up on the auction block. “There is a faction that believes the Detroit Institute of Arts should be closed and its collection should be sold and that the funds raised should help defray Detroit’s debt,” Shackelford said. “The thinking public believes that all those works were given to the museum not to be city property, like real property or chattels, but to be safeguarded by the city and held in trust for the people of Detroit. “The fantasy that the Kimbell Art Museum or the Getty [J. Paul Getty Museum] could simply come up with the money to buy out the collection is nothing but a fantasy. It would be churlish and in bad faith to the other museum.”