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Fort Worth's Kimbell Museum makes a bold move

Tamarind Phinisee
Fort Worth Business Press Contributor

The Kimbell Art Museum’s recent $135 million expansion is allowing the world-renowned facility to not only better display its growing collection, but also open up the museum to more interaction with the community.
The new Renzo Piano Pavilion, said Kimbell Art Museum Director Eric Lee, has made it possible for the museum to take many pieces from its permanent collection out of storage and put them on display in the new space as well as in the Kahn Building, the museum’s original structure. It also has provided space for the Kimbell to display its latest acquisitions, to feature new exhibits and to broaden its menu of events and educational programs.
"Aside from allowing the Kimbell to host great exhibitions while keeping its renowned permanent collection on view simultaneously, the Renzo Piano Pavilion permits the Kimbell to greatly expand its programming," Lee said.
The Piano Pavilion added more than 100,000 square feet to the museum’s previous 120,000 square feet.


“Before, we had to put large portions of the permanent collection in storage whenever we had a special exhibition. Now, we can put most of the collection on view at the same time we have special exhibitions,” said Lee.
Topping the list of new displays is the Kimbell’s latest acquisition, Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield by Jacob van Ruisdael.
The Kimbell acquired the Ruisdael in March from Worcester College, represented by Christie’s of London. The 17th century Dutch landscape painting will be displayed in the South Gallery of the Kahn Building along with all of the museum’s permanent European collection. Its dimensions are large: 41 inches by 57.5 inches. It went on display May 16.
Lee declined to disclose the purchase price for the piece but said the acquisition speaks to the Kimbell’s reputation.
“I think this museum is extremely fortunate that we were approached with such a potential acquisition. And I think it’s because the Kimbell has this extraordinary reputation … that inspires galleries and institutions representing great works to come to us before they go elsewhere,” Lee said. “Also, we have a board that acts very quickly and that understands what is truly important.”
The museum had planned to keep the news of the acquisition under wraps until the painting could be reframed. However, Lee said, word got out to the Times of London, a British daily national newspaper, forcing the Kimbell to make a premature announcement regarding its purchase.
The acquisition is important, said Lee, because Ruisdael’s work had such a major influence on artists who came after him. Ruisdael is considered the greatest 17th century Dutch landscape painter, and this piece is one of the most important landscape paintings now in America.


“It’s more important than any in the Met or the National Gallery of Art or the Getty or the Art Institute of Chicago,” Lee said, adding that the acquisition was criticized by some in Europe who thought the painting should not have left that continent.
As to future plans, Lee said, the museum is always on the lookout for artworks, with an emphasis on quality, not quantity. He said potential acquisitions are always kept confidential until the transaction is final.
Lee said bringing in first class exhibits like the current Samurai exhibit and the upcoming Faces of Impressionism exhibit is one of the outstanding traditions that the museum has maintained over the years.
"Next summer, we welcome an exhibition with many masterpieces traveling for the first time from the National Galleries of Scotland," he said. "And stay tuned for a few more exciting announcements about upcoming exhibitions this summer."
In the meantime, Lee said, the Kimbell is preparing to host an art and music festival geared around the Samurai exhibit on Saturday, June 21, called “Matsuri! A Samurai Celebration.” Visitors will enjoy free admission, traditional performances, art-making activities and musical performances by the popular band Air Review as well as Texas singer-songwriter and recording artist Sarah Jaffe of Denton.
"The Matsuri will utilize both indoor and outdoor spaces, including the lawn, throughout the Kimbell’s campus," Lee said.

Room for more
Aside from increased gallery space, the museum also has more room for special exhibitions. The new Piano Pavilion’s first special exhibition is already installed. It is titled “Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection” and it features one of the largest and finest private collections of samurai armor in the world. The exhibit runs through Aug. 31.
Another exhibit slated for the Piano Pavilion is “Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d’Orsay.” The exhibit will run from Oct. 19 to Jan. 25, 2015, and will include works and history on topics such as Édouard Manet’s defender Émile Zola, Edgar Degas’ aunt Laure Bellelli, Vincent van Gogh’s friend “the Arlésienne” and Paul Gauguin’s lover Tehemana.
The museum expansion has yielded more space for performances and events hosted by nonprofit organizations such as AIA Fort Worth, the Lone Star Film Society, the Fort Worth Classical Guitar Society and the Van Cliburn Foundation, said museum spokeswoman Jessica Brandrup.
“We also have our corporate memberships, which present opportunities for rental of space [depending on the membership level],” Brandrup said. “The other thing is that we now have dedicated education areas with the expansion.”
The corporate membership program lets businesses support the museum while receiving an assortment of benefits, including entertaining privileges. According to the Kimbell website, the corporate membership programs start at $5,000.
As to its educational programs, Brandrup said that in the past, these programs were held in the Kahn Building’s lobby, on the lower level of its auditorium or outside under the south portico. The Piano Building provides 2,856 square feet of dedicated space for these programs.
The programs will be available to children, school groups and adults and will include workshops, book club meetings, discussion groups, lectures and demonstrations. There also will be a program called Summer Fun in Studio A for children 5 and younger. Parents will be able to learn about and enjoy art with their children.
Lee said this first-of-its kind program at the Kimbell will provides an enclosed space for fun, innovative, and developmentally appropriate tactile exploration.
"We're very excited to see the children and their caregivers trying out our new space," he said.
 

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