New book and film on Kimbell history to debut in October

The Kahn Building. (Kimbell Museum/Nic Lehoux)

The Kimbell Art Foundation will release the new book, Of the First Class: A History of the Kimbell Art Museum, the first week of October.

The book by Fort Worth author Tim Madigan is “a compelling insider’s story of how the Kimbell became the renowned institution it is today,” the museum says, and will be on sale in the museum’s shop on Oct. 4, the 47th anniversary of the opening of the museum.

On Oct. 5, at 10:30 a.m., the museum will debut a companion documentary by award-winning New York filmmaker Ultan Guilfoyle, followed by a conversation with both Madigan and Guilfoyle.

The free event is open to all, and no reservations are required.

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At noon, Madigan will sign books in the Pavilion Lobby. The film will also run in the Pavilion Auditorium on an hourly loop throughout the weekend, the museum said.

“Madigan’s book and Guilfoyle’s documentary tell the fascinating history of the Kimbell that only insiders have known before,” Kimbell Director Eric Lee said in a news release. “It is a powerful human story of the personalities who, against all odds and in an unlikely place, created one of the world’s most respected cultural institutions.”

When Texas business legend Kay Kimbell died in 1964, he left behind a sizable art collection and a vague but imposing mandate: to “build a museum of the first class.” No one could have foreseen the extent to which his dream would be fulfilled.

In his research for the book, Madigan conducted scores of interviews with key figures in the museum’s history and spent more than a hundred hours visiting with Kay and Ben Fortson, longtime president and executive vice president of the Kimbell Art Foundation. Madigan also narrates the documentary produced by Guilfoyle.

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“Telling this remarkable story and working with Ultan on the documentary have been among the most profound experiences of my career,” said Madigan, the author of five previous books and a longtime writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“It is the story of art and architecture, to be sure. But above all, it is about people, with Kay and Ben Fortson at its heart. That the Fortsons would trust us with the memories of their remarkable journey is humbling beyond measure,” Madigan said.

Also figuring prominently in the book and film are legendary characters from the museum’s past.

Among them is the Kimbell’s first director, Richard Fargo Brown, who engaged in an international treasure hunt to begin the Kimbell’s collection and hired architect Louis I. Kahn to design its iconic building.

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Brown’s successor, Ted Pillsbury, cemented the Kimbell’s international stature with a series of stunning acquisitions.

Then, early in the new century, the Fortsons turned to acclaimed architect Renzo Piano, who designed a second jewel for the Kimbell campus.

In a journalism career spanning more than three decades, Madigan has written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Politico, Reader’s Digest and, for 30 years, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

His books include the critically acclaimed The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 and a novel of the Greatest Generation and the aftermath of World War II, Every Common Sight.

In 1995, an assignment for the Star-Telegram led Madigan to interview Fred Rogers, the icon of children’s television. That encounter led to a close friendship between the two men that lasted until Rogers’ death in 2003.

In 2012, Madigan authored the celebrated memoir I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers.

Ultan Guilfoyle is an award-winning film producer, director, curator and writer whose films have appeared on HBO, Bravo and PBS in the United States, along with the BBC and Channel 4 in Britain.

In his noted documentary films, Guilfoyle artfully tells the story of acclaimed architectural achievements designed by some of the world’s most renowned architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Renzo Piano and Zaha Hadid.

Guilfoyle was the founding director of the film department at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. There, he curated the landmark 1998 design exhibition The Art of the Motorcycle.

Next year, the sequel exhibition, also curated by Guilfoyle, Personal Transportation: Past & Future, will open at the Queensland Museum of Art in Brisbane, Australia. Guilfoyle’s written essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Independent in the United Kingdom, Design Magazine, and in two Phaidon Press publications, Spoon and Phaidon Design Classics.

The Kimbell Art Museum, owned and operated by the Kimbell Art Foundation, is internationally renowned for both its collections and its architecture.

The museum’s 1972 building, designed by the American architect Louis I. Kahn, is widely regarded as one of the outstanding architectural achievements of the modern era. A second building, designed by world-renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, opened in 2013 and now provides space for special exhibitions, dedicated classrooms and a 289-seat auditorium with excellent acoustics for music.

Admission is always free to view the museum’s permanent collection. Special exhibitions require a ticket.

Kimbell Art Museum

3333 Camp Bowie Blvd.

Fort Worth, Texas 76107

The museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; noon-8 p.m. Fridays; and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays.

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