KIMBELL ART MUSEUM PRESENTS MASTERWORKS FROM ITS COLLECTION TO INAUGURATE THE NEW, LIGHT-FILLED GALLERIES IN THE PIANO PAVILION

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Amanda de Beaufort, Anne Edgar Associates
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Jessica Brandrup, Head of Marketing and PR, Kimbell Art Museum
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 2013

 KIMBELL ART MUSEUM PRESENTS MASTERWORKS FROM ITS COLLECTION
TO INAUGURATE THE NEW, LIGHT-FILLED GALLERIES IN THE PIANO PAVILION

 

Fort Worth, TX – The Kimbell Art Museum will mark the Grand Opening of the new Renzo Piano Pavilion by transforming its new galleries into a three-part showcase for the finest and best-loved works in the permanent collection.

Both literally and figuratively, the presentation will place one of the most highly esteemed museum collections in the country in a new light. The inaugural installation will open to the public on Wednesday, November 27, 2013, and remain on view through mid-January. Thereafter, the works of Asian, Precolumbian and African/Oceanic art will remain on view indefinitely in the north and west galleries of the Piano Pavilion, while the works of European art will return to the Louis Kahn Building.

The Museum’s new pavilion faces its original home, a modernist masterpiece by Louis I. Kahn. In the years since the opening of Kahn’s building in the fall of 1972, major works of European, Ancient, Asian, African, Oceanic and Precolumbian art have been set against warm travertine walls and bathed in an overhead, silvery light orchestrated by Kahn through an inventive system of skylights, steel reflectors and the reflective surfaces of a concrete ceiling.

The opening exhibition in the Piano Pavilion will present the collection in a very different setting. Light is fundamental to both structures, but while illumination comes from above in the Kahn Building, it is a more pervasive presence in the Piano Pavilion because of large glass walls and windows. Architectural concrete, which serves as a canopy in Kahn’s vaulted galleries, migrates from ceiling to wall in Piano’s galleries. Distinctive oak floors are common to both buildings, but in the north and south galleries of the Piano Pavilion, works will be displayed beneath long, noble fir beams that move towards great walls of glass, and in the west gallery, housed beneath the grassy roof of the pavilion’s eastern section, works will be displayed in a sweeping lower-ceilinged gallery punctuated by concrete columns.

South Gallery

In the south gallery of the Piano Pavilion, European paintings and sculptures will convey the sweep of Western achievement from the late medieval period to the Enlightenment.

“We hope that art lovers around the country, and indeed the world, will make a point of viewing this first installation of paintings and sculptures from the permanent collection. The presentation marks the only time in the foreseeable future when the Kimbell’s European collection will be showcased in the Piano Pavilion’s south gallery, which was designed to accommodate changing exhibitions,” says Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum.

The 17th century occupies pride of place with La Tour’s Cheat with the Ace of Clubs (late 1620s), Velázquez’s Don Pedro de Barberana (c. 1631–33), Murillo’s Four Figures on a Step (c. 1655–60) and El Greco’s Portrait of Dr. Francisco de Pisa (c. 1610–14) installed in the central zone. Nearby will be a recent acquisition, a Poussin from the artist’s famous first set of the Seven Sacraments, commissioned by the prominent Roman collector Cassiano dal Pozzo between 1636 and 1642. The richly hued painting, The Sacrament of Ordination, will be hung near the artist’s earlier Venus and Adonis (1628–29).

Other highlights will be encountered in approximate chronological order as the viewer circulates clockwise. Among the Renaissance masterworks are Duccio’s Raising of Lazarus (1310–11), a panel from the Maestá altarpiece, Siena; Mantegna’s Madonna and Child (1485–88); Bellini’s Christ Blessing (1500); Bassano’s Supper at Emmaus (1538); and Caravaggio’s celebrated Cardsharps (1594). Caravaggio’s realism profoundly marked the art of the 17th century, celebrated in the Kimbell collection by such works as Guercino’s Christ and the Woman of Samaria (1619–20), Bernini’s Modello for the Fountain of the Moor (1653), and Rembrandt’s Bust of a Young Jew (1663). Watteau’s Happy Age! Golden Age (c. 1716) is among the highlights of the collection’s 18th-century holdings, which include Chardin’s Young Student Drawing (1738), two ravishing sketches for ceiling paintings by Tiepolo (c. 1739 and 1754), four monumental paintings on mythological themes by the Rococo master Boucher (1769), and two great portraits of the Ancien Régime—Houdon’s Aymard-Jean de Nicolay, Premier Président de la Chambre des Comptes (1779) and Vigée LeBrun’s Self Portrait (1790). 

Three of the first major paintings to enter the Museum’s collection bring the showing to a close on a note of unequaled aesthetic equilibrium and confidence. Acquired by the Museum’s founders Kay and Velma Kimbell, who particularly admired British portraits in the Grand Manner, they are Gainsborough’s Miss Lloyd (c. 1750), Romney’s Mrs. Andrew Reid (c. 1780–88) and Reynold’s Elizabeth Warren (1759).

More works representing succeeding chapters in European art, from the 19th to the early 20th century, will be on view across the green in the north gallery of the Kahn Building, including paintings by Turner, Courbet, Monet, Manet, Munch, Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse.

West Gallery

The west gallery is designed to accommodate the exhibition of works on paper and other works of art that are sensitive to natural light. Unlike the galleries to the south and north, this gallery does not have a wall of glass, but instead opens out at only three junctures: one doorway opens to the north to the sunlit upper level outside the pavilion’s auditorium, while another leads through a glass corridor to the south gallery. A glass window frames a dramatic vista that originates below grade and sweeps up a green, grassy slope of steps to culminate in the sight of the tower of the Will Rogers Memorial Center.

For the inaugural showing, the finest works from the Museum’s collection of Asian art will occupy the west gallery. Grouped generally by culture, these works of Southeast Asian, Indian, Chinese and Japanese art represent approximately one third of the Kimbell’s Asian collection.

Harihara, a life-size sandstone sculpture of a Hindu deity, a Southeast Asian masterpiece from the pre-Angkor period of Cambodian history, is a focal point of the installation. The figure is on axis with the north door and south window and framed on the west wall by the muted gold-and-silver expanse of a Japanese six-fold screen (c. 1600) thought to represent the exile of an emperor. So positioned, Harihara is seen in full magnificence: delicately modeled musculature, supple articulation of limbs and slender, draped torso.

Along the same sight line as Harihara is another sculpture, a bronze depiction of the Bodhisattva Maitreya, which stands in front of the south window. Also from the pre-Angkor period, but from Thailand, this Maitreya is one of the largest and most spectacular objects unearthed in a milestone 1964 archaeological find.

Featured among the early Indian works on view are two of the world’s finest carved stone Buddhist figures, a bodhisattva from the ancient region of Gandhara and a seated Buddha from Mathura, as well as a terracotta relief of the four-armed Ganesha (5th–6th century). From Nepal comes a small, gilded 7th-century figure of the standing Buddha Shakyamuni, a rare, early example of the bronze sculpture-making tradition that was to flourish in Nepal in the following centuries.

A large, delicately carved, gilt, wood Shaka Buddha from the 14th century stands in the center of the room as a portal to other Japanese masterpieces, which range from a clay figure of a Haniwa seated man (A.D. 500) to a virtuosic brush painting by Shibata Zeshin of a waterfall and monkeys (1872).

Among the highlights of Chinese art in the west gallery is a life-size Tang dynasty stone bodhisattva with traces of gesso and pigment still evident after more than a thousand years; a plump polychrome court lady, a charming example of Tang dynasty tomb pottery; and a hand scroll from the 14th century that is both revolutionary in painting style and, with imperial seals, colophons and inscriptions, a fascinating case study in Chinese connoisseurship.

North Gallery

The Museum’s collections of Precolumbian and African art have found a permanent new home in the pavilion’s north gallery.

The Museum’s African collection, which is small in size but extraordinary in quality, dominates the entrance area, setting up a compelling vista that leads the eye from a tall, wood ancestor figure of a warrior (Hemba people, Congo, 19th century) to a masterful representation of Chibinda Ilunga, royal ancestor of the Chokwe people of Angola (19th century) to the landscape beyond the glass walls of the next gallery space.

An exquisitely modeled terracotta head, possibly of an Ife king from what is now southwestern Nigeria (12th–14th century), is displayed near the Hemba sculpture. Representing a supreme high point in African artistic achievement, the head is one of the signature works of the Kimbell collection. On display will also be an outstanding example of Oceanic sculpture—an early-19th-century carved ancestor figure from the Maori culture of New Zealand.

With the new pavilion, a large carved and impressive limestone stela from the Maya Late Preclassic period—one of the Museum’s most familiar and beloved works—will be visible from Camp Bowie Boulevard through the glass curtain wall and will be displayed in the context of a wide range of stellar Maya works. Among the highlights here are two censer stands, sculpted about A.D. 700 in the Palenque region near modern-day Chiapas, Mexico, which were acquired this year. They represent some of the largest and most sophisticated freestanding sculptures created by the Maya for use in rituals and to venerate deities, in particular the jaguar god of the underworld. Other Maya works include an exquisite carved jade belt pendant and an array of beautifully painted and incised pottery vessels.

Visitors will find other favorites here: an Olmec standing figure carved from precious green jade, smaller than the size of a human hand, but monumental in impact; a 5th-century clay urn depicting Cociyo, the Zapotec god of lightning and rain; and a precious wood, shell-and-stone inlaid Wari standing figure of a dignitary from Peru (A.D. 600–1000).

“We are thrilled to be able to display these beautiful and historically significant works to their advantage in such a prominent, light-filled gallery,” notes Jennifer Casler Price, curator for Asian and non-Western art, Kimbell Art Museum.  

Louis Kahn Building

More works from the permanent collection will be found in the Kahn Building during the inaugural period. These include European paintings and sculptures from the 19th to the early 20th century in the north gallery; a choice selection of Roman, Egyptian and Assyrian sculptures adjacent to the north gallery; and a display of models, drawings and photographs in the east gallery that tell the story of the creation of the Kahn and Piano museum buildings.

More information may be found at www.kimbellart.org. 

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Images are available on request.

Kimbell Art Museum hours: Tuesday–Thursday and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Fridays, noon–8 p.m.; Sundays, noon–5 p.m.; closed Mondays. For general information, call 817-332-8451. Website: www.kimbellart.org. Address: 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76107.

*Admission to view the Museum’s permanent collection is always FREE.