Masterpiece: A New Look at the Kimbell Collection

Masterpiece: A New Look at the Kimbell Collection

April 30, 2006 to October 22, 2006

The Kimbell made an exhibition of itself in the spring and summer of 2006—featuring its world-famous collection more fully and spaciously than had been possible for some years. The Museum’s active program of loan exhibitions inevitably limits the amount of space in the galleries devoted to the collection. But during Masterpiece: A New Look at the Kimbell Collection (which opened April 30, 2006, and ran through the summer) the collection was the main event, filling the timeless, luminous spaces of Louis Kahn’s great building. As well as a much-expanded selection of works from the collection, the new installation presented new acquisitions, outstanding “guests of honor” from other collections, familiar paintings in new frames, and information about the collection’s history and character.

This new look at the collection marked the 40th anniversary of the museum’s inaugural Policy Statement, dated June 1, 1966, in which first director Richard F. Brown laid down the philosophical basis on which the Kimbell’s collection would be built. It was what might be called the Masterpiece Principle: The dominating principle involved in the acquisition process is that the stature of the Museum depends more upon the quality of the definitive objects it contains than on the historical completeness of its collections. A prospective addition to the collections, therefore, is to be judged from the standpoint of aesthetic quality and typicality, and whether it defines a master, period, school, style, or area. The goal shall be definitive excellence, not size of collection. Forty years later, this was a good moment to consider how well the collection has lived up to the high ideal on which it was founded.

Masterpiece: A New Look at the Kimbell Collection opened to the public on April 30, 2006, with Asian art (through July 16), antiquities and European art (through July 23), and Precolumbian and African art (through October 22) all prominently displayed. Admission was free. All of the Kimbell’s recent acquisitions were on view, including important works of sculpture such as the ancient Greek Head of an Athlete, the Late Gothic German Virgin and Child, and two of the most recent acquisitions—a striking Egyptian funerary statuette and a rare terracotta relief of the Madonna and Child by the great Renaissance sculptor Donatello.

Caption: Attributed to Donatello, Virgin and Child (The Borromeo Madonna), detail, c. 1450, terracotta. Kimbell Art Museum