Blanton Museum will raise $15 million to build contemporary art installation

Sebastian Herrera

The Blanton Museum of Art announced Friday that it is raising funds to install a new permanent installation: a 73-by-60 foot stand-alone stone building with luminous colored glass windows, a totemic wooden sculpture and 14 black-and-white marble stone panels.

The installation, named “Austin,” is one of the Blanton’s most important art structures to date, according to Veronica Roberts, the museum’s curator for modern and contemporary art.

Ninety-one year-old artist Ellsworth Kelly originally conceived of the idea for the structure in 1986 and has gifted the design to the University. “Austin” will be constructed outside the museum. 

The museum is honored to be building a structure Kelly designed, Roberts said.

“We own an amazing painting by him called ‘High Yellow,’ so when we were given the opportunity to do this, the Blanton and the University seemed like the absolute ideal place,” Roberts said. “Mr. Kelly is very excited about the idea of this work existing in perpetuity … he’s been very hands-on with the project.”

So far, the University has raised $7 million committed specifically to the structure through various donations, and needs another $8 million to reach its goal. Additionally, President William Powers Jr. created a $1 million endowment for the care and conservation of “Austin.” 

 The structure will give boost University’s art reputation, according to art senior lecturer Sarah Canright.

 “Just like the [Monochrome for Austin] canoe structure outside of the Hackerman Building, it shows that the University is taking art seriously enough to put money into this type of project,” Canright said. “Austin is becoming a more sophisticated artistically city, and this is something else that reflects that.”

 Romanesque art buildings, such as the Rothko Chapel in Houston and the Chappelle du Rosaire in Southern France, inspired the design for “Austin,” Roberts said. Unlike those structures, Kelly’s building is not designed for a particular religious purpose. Kelly designed the sculpture because he wanted visitors to experience “Austin” as “a place of calm and light,” he said in a press release.

Art history sophomore Stephanie Gardea said she thinks UT students will appreciate the installation.

“Overall, I think most people will [enjoy it],” Gardea said. “After all, it is a tribute to this city that can even be found in its name.”