New building for modern and contemporary art will cap the largest cultural project in North America: the expansion and redevelopment of the Museum’s 14-acre Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus

Site-specific works by seven international artists to be installed across the campus; inaugural installations to highlight major collections never before presented in depth

HOUSTON—November 6, 2019—Gary Tinterow, Director and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, today announced that the institution’s multi-year project to expand and redevelop its Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus will reach completion in fall 2020 with the opening of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the firm that also created the master plan for the campus redevelopment, the Kinder Building is specially dedicated to installations from the important and rapidly growing MFAH collection of 20th- and 21st-century art and will open with an exhibition highlighting a trove of major collections never before presented in depth.

The redevelopment of the Sarofim Campus and related off-site art-storage facilities is the largest cultural project currently in progress in North America, with some 650,000 square feet of new construction. Inaugurated in 2012 with the selection of Steven Holl Architects and undertaken through a $450 million capital and endowment campaign, the project will unify the campus by creating 14 walkable acres. It has already added a public plaza and two buildings to the MFAH: a new home for the Glassell School of Art, also designed by Steven Holl Architects; and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, designed by Lake|Flato Architects.

The Kinder Building now becomes the final component of the plan as the third gallery building on the Sarofim Campus, joining the Museum’s original Caroline Wiess Law Building (designed in the 1920s by William Ward Watkin, with later extensions by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) and the Audrey Jones Beck Building (designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in 2000).

Steven Holl Architects has designed the Kinder Building to stand in complementary contrast to these existing structures and to create a dialogue with Isamu Noguchi’s 1986 Cullen Sculpture Garden, which Holl’s gallery building fronts on one side. The trapezoidal concrete building is clad in vertical glass tubes that will emit a soft glow at night, through composed patterns of illumination across its facades. Five rectangular courtyard pools are inset along the perimeter, reinforcing the building’s openness to its surroundings.

The Kinder Building is 183,528 square feet overall, excluding 53,685 square feet of belowground parking on two levels. With more than 100,000 square feet of space, or 56 percent, dedicated to the presentation of works of art, the Kinder Building increases overall MFAH exhibition space by nearly 75 percent. Additional features of the building include a 215-seat theater for film screenings and a restaurant and café on the ground level.

A series of seven major site-specific commissioned artworks will be inaugurated with the Kinder Building, serving as portals that connect this new structure with the other components of the campus. Commissioned artists are El Anatsui, Byung Hoon Choi, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Olafur Eliasson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Cristina Iglesias, and Ai Weiwei.

The master plan also adds public plazas and gardens to the campus. Green spaces by Deborah Nevins & Associates, in collaboration with Mario Benito, and upgraded sidewalks, street lighting, and wayfinding are creating an urban oasis in the increasingly dense Museum District and contributing to Houston’s evolution as a more walkable city. The campus project has moved new parking belowground, adding 400 spaces.

“The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has, over the last dozen years, become one of this nation’s fastest-growing art museums in terms of collections, programs, and audience,” Gary Tinterow said. “For some eight years now, through our campus plan, we have been stepping up in every way to match the growth, diversity, and dynamism of our city. When we open the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building in fall 2020, we hope to welcome the entire world to an expansive, beautifully designed complex of buildings and urban gardens, revealing the previously unsuspected riches of an international collection we could never before exhibit in such range and depth.”

To date, the MFAH has surpassed its original $450 million campaign goal. Nearly 100 percent of donations have come from within Houston, with principal gifts provided by Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim and the Kinder Foundation. The Museum’s 30,000 members give the institution both robust ongoing financial support and an exceptional level of engaged visitation. Local audiences make up 90 percent of year-round attendees.

Richard D. Kinder, Chairman of the MFAH Board of Trustees, said, “We are grateful to Steven Holl for his brilliant master plan and superb architecture, to the farsighted donors who gave us extraordinary endowment resources to build the collection, and to all the trustees and supporters who enabled us to achieve such an ambitious plan. Most of all, though, we thank the people of Houston, who make this institution their museum, day after day.”

“All buildings on the campus are in conversation with each other, with the lush Houston landscape as the connecting syntax,” Steven Holl said. “There’s a porosity to the buildings—whether in the alternating concrete and glass panels of the Glassell School, or the ground-floor transparency and perimeter garden insets of the Kinder Building—that creates a sense of interchange between indoors and out. Light enters the Kinder Building through the ‘luminous canopy’ of its roof, modeled on the billowing clouds of the Texas sky, and light emerges from the cladding of soft-etched translucent glass tubes, whose glowing presence at night will add to the impact of the campus as a civic experience for all of Houston.”

“Our goal in designing the landscape has been to create a universally accessible MFAH campus,” Deborah Nevins said, “made possible by the master plan’s bold move of locating all parking underground to make way for green space and walkways. Whether people are relaxing in the shade of the new Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza, strolling through Noguchi’s superb sculpture garden, or looking out over the city from the Glassell School’s roof terrace, the outdoor public spaces provide distinct perspectives on the campus while enabling everyone to experience the architects’ unifying vision.”

Site-Specific Commissions
Located at strategic points throughout the Sarofim Campus will be seven site-specific works designed to mark moments of transition on the campus and activate public spaces. The works have been commissioned from a roster of renowned, international artists.

A sculptural pool by Cristina Iglesias will occupy the site immediately in front of the main entrance to the Kinder Building. Evoking the rhythms of an ocean tidal pool, the cast-bronze topographical form will, in a sequence, fill with rushing water and drain to reveal its roughly striated “bed.”

Three sculptures by Byung Hoon Choi, collectively titled Scholar’s Way, will be sited at an adjacent entrance to the Kinder Building. The abstract, gently torqued vertical forms, made of unpolished Indonesian basalt, are a modern reinterpretation of the traditional scholar’s ethos. Each will be about 10 feet tall, arrayed across one of the courtyard pools inset into the perimeter of Steven Holl’s building.

A chromatic tunnel by Carlos Cruz-Diez, one of the late artist’s last works, will give visitors to the MFAH a direct belowground passage between the Kinder Building and the Law Building across the street. A series of three chambers within the tunnel will immerse visitors in the artist’s signature research, the “Chromosaturation”: a chromatic environment in which the light is strongly and uniformly red, green, or blue, dissolving the sense of physical dimension and making the color itself seem to be a material. The Cruz-Diez Art Foundation and Articruz, the artist’s studio in Panama, are realizing the MFAH installation according to the plans he created.

A second tunnel, this one running between the Kinder Building and Glassell School, will be created by Olafur Eliasson. Nineteen light fixtures suspended from the ceiling will flood the tunnel with yellow light, limiting perception to yellow and gray tones as if, as the artist has said, museumgoers are characters in a live-action monochromatic film. The experience will change at two points, where purple-filtered natural light will enter from skylights, creating a contrasting effect that will vary with the course of the daylight.

Two monumental artworks will be suspended adjacent to the Cruz-Diez and Eliasson tunnels. A metallic tapestry by El Anatsui will be installed in the Kinder Building just outside the Cruz-Diez tunnel. In the Glassell School, above a drop-off atrium for schoolchildren adjacent to the Eliasson tunnel, a dramatic dragon sculpture by Ai Weiwei, constructed of bamboo, aluminum, mirrors and silk, will be suspended from the ceiling.

Houston-based artist Trenton Doyle Hancock will create a 10x22-foot tapestry for the Museum’s restaurant. Hancock’s commission will revisit a backdrop that he created for the 2008 Ballet Austin production Cult of Color: Call to Color, titled Good Vegan Progression #5 and produced with the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. That piece, layered with the artist’s part-fictional, part-autobiographical narratives, depicts brightly colored trees across an abstract field.

Inaugural Installations Unveil Collections Never Exhibited in Depth
With its two floors of galleries radiating from a light-filled atrium, and three dedicated gallery spaces at street level, the Kinder Building will enable the MFAH to present the first comprehensive, long-term installation of its distinguished international collections of modern and contemporary art. Particular strengths are in postwar American painting; postwar Latin American art, with a focus on Concrete and Constructive art from Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela, as well as contemporary photo-based work and large-scale installations; international photography, with notable concentrations in Japanese, Latin American, and Central European photography as well as American and Western European; prints and drawings, including the entire 1980–1994 archive portfolio of Peter Blum Editions; and international decorative arts, craft, and design, in particular contemporary.

An endowment fund established by Caroline Wiess Law, and augmented by the contributions of subsequent donors, has given the MFAH an exceptional capacity to acquire modern and contemporary art by purchase. Dozens of works accessioned over the past 15 years and never previously exhibited will be incorporated into the inaugural installations.  More details about the inaugural installations will be announced at a later date.

Support for the Campus Project
The MFAH initiated its Campaign for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in January 2012 with a goal of $450 million, including for operating endowment. The campaign has exceeded expectations, raising $472 million to date. Based on the continued interest in Houston to support the Museum and the campaign, the MFAH continues to fundraise.

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