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The Kimbell Museum Welcomes the Renzo Piano Pavilion

Dec 4 2013

by MaryDell Harrington

Update: When The Wall Street Journal published its “Best of 2013” issue, writer Julie V. Iovine placed the Kimbell Art Museum addition in the number one spot for architecture. To quote from her December 27th story, “The Virtues of Restraint”:

And so it was a year when additions were as noteworthy as new buildings. The most highly anticipated was the pavilion by Renzo Piano added to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The museum had been designed by Louis Kahn, the most idolized American architect of the 20th century. Mr. Piano kept a safe distance by designing a hyperresponsive evocation of light and landscape in contrast to the silent thunder of Mr. Kahn’s modern monumentality.

When a world class architect builds a museum in your hometown, it is big deal. Forty years later, when a second architect is hired to expand the revered original, the art world holds its breath. The Renzo Piano Pavilion, sitting 65 yards west of Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum, opened in Fort Worth on November 27 and critics are praising the result.

The museum has its roots in the 1930s, when Kay Kimbell, who dropped out of school at thirteen to help his father’s grain-milling business, later endowed the Kimbell Art Foundation. By his death in 1964, he and his widow, Velma Kimbell, had amassed 70 companies and over 300 works of art.

Ric Brown was hired from the LA County Museum of Art as the first director and not only chose Kahn to design the building, but he set the museum on a course to acquire works of “definitive excellence,” leading many to call the Kimbell “the world’s best small museum.

On the stunning Kimbell website, with excellent images of the new and old buildings, Piano describes his addition as being placed “Close enough for a conversation, not too close and not too far away.” The additional 100,000 square feet in the new building creates room for three education studios, a library, a gallery for light sensitive works of art and an auditorium with acoustics designed for music performances. It nearly doubles the existing space allowing for the Kimbell to keep its permanent collection on display while also hosting exhibits.

Touring the Kimbell and the Piano building should be on the “must see” list for anyone visiting Fort Worth. They are definitely on mine.

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2 responses on “The Kimbell Museum Welcomes the Renzo Piano Pavilion

  1. jillmckenzie

    Renzo Piano did a beautiful job of bring light and space to Atlanta’s High Museum of art. Will put that on my list of museums to visit.

  2. marydellharrington Post author

    Whitney and Jill, the Kimbell has always been an incredibly beautiful museum. I can;t wait to see this new Piano companion structure. Fort Worth is fortunate to have had such generosity in the past to create these collections and show them at no cost to visitors.

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