December 25, 2013: Christmas
December 18, 2013: ICE! at the Gaylord Texan Hotel
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December 19, 2013
A Visit to the Kimbell Museum
in Fort Worth


 

Prudence has been in Grapevine this week visiting her sister, and she and Nancy have asked Fred and I to join them in making a trip to Fort Worth to go to the new Piano Pavilion at the Kimbell Museum. We went out to Grapevine in late morning, and by noontime the five of us (Nancy, Prudence, Karl, Fred and myself) were on our way over to Fort Worth.

 

Getting to the Kimbell


Fred and I drove out to Nancy's house around ten-thirty and had a chance to visit for a while with her and Prudence before we got in Nancy's SUV to go over to Fort Worth. There is a lot of highway construction between Grapevine and Fort Worth, so it was slow going at times, but after about 45 minutes we pulled into the parking lot at the Kimbell.

What we really wanted to do today was to visit the Kimbell's new pavilion, designed by Renzo Piano, and that would be the first thing on our agenda.


This new Pavilion has not been open very long, it is also too new to appear on the satellite views currently available on Google. So I took an aerial view of the Kimbell and drew in the approximate location of the new Pavilion. “Close enough for a conversation, not too close and not too far away,” remarked architect Renzo Piano, when describing the distance from the Kimbell’s new Renzo Piano Pavilion to the Louis Kahn Building (which we walked through to get to the new pavilion). Piano’s structure, made of glass, concrete, and wood and surrounded by elms and red oaks, stands as an expression of simplicity and lightness some 65 yards to the west of Kahn’s vaulted, luminous museum landmark of 1972.

On this aerial view, I have also marked a route that indicates the approximate path that we took in walking around the outside of the building. If you wonder why this "outside" path seems to go through the west side of the building, it's because part of the building is under a green roof- one that has grass and other plants growing on it. This is the first time I can remember walking across the roof of a green building. There are grassy ramps on the north and south ends to allow people to walk across.

As you can see from the aerial view, to get to the new pavilion from the parking area, the most direct route is through the Kimbell itself, although the Piano Pavilion is an entirely separate building and you can walk into it directly.


With the Kimbell as a Backdrop

We walked into the lower level of the Kimbell from our parking space on the east side of the building, went upstairs and then through the lobby of the Kimbell to the grassy, tree-planted area between the two buildings. The area is quite nice, particularly on warm, sunny days, with its reflecting pools and views.

Use the clickable thumbnails below to see some other pictures we took between the Kimbell and the Piano Pavilion:



Crossing the open area, we went up the steps to the Piano Pavilion.

 

Walking Through the Piano Pavilion

Piano’s low-slung, colonnaded pavilion with overhanging eaves graciously acknowledges Kahn’s museum building by way of its kindred height, emphasis on natural light, and use of concrete as a primary material.


The Piano Pavilion (south view)

The positioning of the pavilion on the site focuses attention on the west facade of the Kahn Building, which Kahn considered to be the main entrance.

Use the clickable thumbnails below to see some pictures of the east entrance facade of the new Piano Pavilion:

Renowned architect Renzo Piano has won the Pritzker Prize, the AIA Gold Medal, and other architectural awards. His firm employs more than a hundred architects, engineers, and building specialists; Piano and his firm have designed skyscrapers, department stores, churches, factories, housing, university buildings, stadia, a winery and even a bridge. Born in 1937, Piano joined with Richard Rogers and Peter Rice to win the competition to design and build the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

In 1980, Piano, now a principal of Atelier Piano & Rice, was approached by the Schlumberger oil-equipment heiress Dominique de Menil to design a museum in Houston to house her impressive collection of art. The result was an exposed steel and wood pavilion, minimalist in form, which was immediately hailed as a new milestone in museum architecture, and since then Piano's firm has received a steady stream of museum commissions, including the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.


In talking about the pavilion, and to follow us through it, it helps to have a diagram, and there is one at right. On it, I've marked the places we stopped in the order we stopped there. I'll divide the narrative and the pictures that follow into sections- one for each of the marked stops on the diagram.

The pavilion is made up of two sections connected by a glass passageway. The front, or easternmost, section conveys an impression of weightlessness: a glass roof system seems to float high above wooden beams and concrete posts. Sleek, square concrete columns flank the central, recessed glass entrance and wrap around three sides of the building. The tripartite facade articulates the interior, with a spacious entrance lobby and large galleries to the north and south.

Tucked under a green roof, the Piano Pavilion’s western section contains a gallery for light-sensitive works of art, three education studios, a large library with reading areas, and an auditorium with superior acoustics for music. The latter, located below ground level, is a design centerpiece: its raked seating faces the stage and the dramatic backdrop of a light well animated by shifting patterns of natural light.

Let's begin our tour of the Piano Pavilion by taking a look at the Lobby (1).

 

The Piano Pavilion: Lobby and Passageways(1)

The lobby of the Piano Pavilion (the "Piano") is a bright, airy, wood-floored space.

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The Lobby of the Piano

On the east side is the glass-walled entry, and on the west side is another glass wall with two glass enclosed passageways leading to the western half of the building. Only the north and south walls are not glass; they are, of course, the walls of the galleries to the north and south.

It was here that we stopped and picked up our museum guides, and chatted with a docent about the building. I made a movie of the lobby area, and you can watch it with the player at right.

You can use the clickable thumbnails below to see a couple of still pictures we took in the Lobby:


We didn't take any pictures or movies in the passageways, but you've seen them in the lobby pictures, and you'll see more views of them when we stop at the stairs in the western building.

 

The Piano Pavilion: Auditorium, Offices and Western Stairs (2)

There are two glassed-in walkways that connect the two buildings that make up the pavilion. We went through the one that connects the lobby to the auditorium wing.


In the Auditorium/Office Wing

The Auditorium/Office wing is two stories, with the main entrances to the auditorium/theatre on the lower floor. There are some beautifully-done stairs that lead down to the lower level. The stairs have one wall that is angled, which provides an interesting visual aspect. You can use the clickable thumbnails below for various views of these stairs:

While I was on the lower level, I stuck my head into the auditorium, which was unlike any theatre I'd been in, as the stage is backed by a wall of windows. I'd be curious to attend a musical event here to see what the acoustics are like.

I went back up the stairs, and turned to see Prudence and Nancy coming up behind me. You almost have to have people in these pictures to provide scale.

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Artists at Work

Back up on the first floor, I walked straight ahead towards the north end of the building where it almost looked as if the end of the hall was open to the outside. You actually had to get quite close to see that it was another floor to ceiling window. We'd see this window from the outside a little later. Down a hall to the left were the facilities and two or three art rooms. I stuck my head in one of them, and made a short movie, which you might find humorous. You can watch it with the player at right.

Everyone else was ready to go into the gallery at the south end of this building, so I turned and headed in that direction, passing by the stairs on my left and the upper level of the auditorium on my right. You can see the view that I saw here.

 

The Piano Pavilion: West Gallery (3)

The galleries in the Piano pavilion have become the semi-permanent home for many of the non-Western art pieces in the Kimbell collection. Here in the West Gallery, the emphasis was on Asian artworks. They used to be rotated through displayed in the downstairs entrance hall in the Kahn building (the one we'd entered), but it was a foyer and there were lots of people tramping through. The curators were happy that so many people got to see the works, but few of them lingered to look at them in detail.

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The West Gallery: Asian and African Art

One of the nice things about the Piano Pavilion is that photography is allowed, so long as a flash isn't used. In this gallery, many of the pieces were well-lit, and I took pictures of some of those that were. Movies, however, don't seem to be hampered by low light, and one of the first things I did when we entered the gallery was to make a movie looking all around it, and you can use the player at left to watch the movie.

There were lots of interesting sculptures and artifacts throughout the room. Karl was interested in reading about the objects, and of course some of them were very interesting. At one end of the room was a huge Oriental screen that was striking for the scenes painted on it.

Fred and I photographed a number of the pieces in this gallery, and you can use the clickable thumbnails below to have a look at them. In addition, I photographed the explanatory signs for a few of them, so if one of the thumbnails has the word "Sign" below it, you can click on that word to read the description of the item:


 

The Piano Pavilion: South Gallery (4)

From the West Gallery, we took the glass-enclosed passage over to the South Gallery. Being all glass, the views to the outside, even on a cloudy day like today, were good. The view seen here looks south towards the Will Rogers Arena.

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In the South Gallery

In the south gallery, European art is featured, including paintings by Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Poussin, Rembrandt and Boucher and sculpture by Donatello, Bernini and Houdon.

When we entered this gallery, I took up a position pretty much in the center of the room and made a movie looking all around and at a couple paintings. You can use the player at left to watch that movie. While I was filming the movie, Fred took some still shots around the gallery, and I have put clickable thumbnails below for some of these:

I thought that taking very many pictures of the gallery itself wouldn't be of much interest; everyone knows what an art gallery or a museum looks like. So what I thought I would do would be to photograph the works that I found interesting or pretty or otherwise photogenic. Then, where possible, I would also photgraph the descriptive placard for the work. (Actually, I took only one photo of something other than a painting; it was a sculpture entitled " Portrait of Aymard-Jean de Nicolay".

Below, I have put clickable thumbnails for these works of art that I photographed. To see a larger image, just click on the thumbnail. When you do, now only will you see the larger image, but you will be able to read the descriptive placard, as it will appear to the right of the artwork itself:

Being a card player, one of my favorite paintings was "The Cheat With the Ace of Clubs". You can read about that painting by clicking here.


At left are three additional clickable thumbnails for other artwork I photographed. Clicking on any thumbnail will again bring up a window with a larger version of the picture as well as a readable image of its placard.

It looked as if Prudence, Nancy and Karl wanted to spend more time in the South Gallery, so Fred and I let them know that we were going to go outside and have a walkaround of the building itself.

 

Fred and I Walk Around the Outside of the Piano Pavilion

For our walk around the outside of the Piano Pavilion, we walked in a counterclockwise route around the north side of the building.


Following the path in red shown on the aerial view at left, our walk took us around the north side of the pavilion (which does not yet show up on a Google aerial view of the Kimbell complex) and then across the green roof to the south. We walked along the west side of the green roof so we could look down into the thin atrium that forms the backdrop of the auditorium. We returned to the Piano Pavilion entrance from the south.

Walking to the north outside the entrance, we came to the northeast corner of the new pavilion and then turned west to walk along Camp Bowie Blvd. This brought us to a point where we could look south to see the glass passageways (and those red chairs you saw in an earlier picture). A bit further along, we passed the floor-to-ceiling window that I investigated earlier, thinking the hall in the west building was open to the outside. You can see that window behind Fred here.

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On the Green Roof of the Piano Pavilion

This brought us to the point were we could walk up onto the green roof of the west building in the pavilion. On the north and south the grass just slopes up onto the roof. Along the east and west sides there are low concrete walls that would keep someone from falling into the space between the buildings on the east or down into the thin atrium behind the auditorium on the west.

Below are a series of clickable thumbnails for the pictures we took on our way around and over the building- in order. In them you can see the features that I talked about in the paragraph above. To orient you, the tower at Will Rogers is south of the Piano Pavilion, and there is a six or seven storey building north of it.

We went back in to rejoin everyone and have a look at the North Gallery.

 

The Piano Pavilion: North Gallery (5)

The North Gallery here in the Piano Pavilion showcases superb examples of Precolumbian and African art. This gallery is in an L-shape surrounding the pavilion store.


The North Gallery in the Piano Pavilion

The pre-Columbian art in this gallery was very interesting. One of the most interesting objects was an Urn in the form of Cociyo, God of Lightning and Rain. (You can read the information about this urn if you click here.)

There were a couple very interesting objects hanging on the wall, one of which looked like a section of Mayan-like carvings; you can see it here. Another of the wall-mounted objects were these two Mayan censer stands. It was interesting to read about them, and you can do so here.

You can click on the thumbnails below to see three more pictures that we took here in the North Gallery:

One last object (or set of objects) that I found quite beautiful was a group of four Mayan vessels that are about 1200 years old. One of them was marked as the "Vessel With Four Figures". You can read the description of that object here.

I made two movies here in the North Gallery. The first was of the vessels mentioned above, as I thought they were particularly beautiful. The other takes us through the gallery and into the museum store. You can watch these two movies with the players below:

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The Four Vessels
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In the North Gallery

Finishing in the North Gallery we spent some time in the museum store before going back outside as a group.

 

We All Walk Around the Outside of the Piano Pavilion

When we left the pavilion, all of us went on a walk around the building, because we wanted to show the others the green roof. For this walk, we went in the opposite direction from the first time.


This time we followed the route marked in yellow.

I've already mentioned the features of the outside of the building from the walk above that Fred and I took earlier. But we did take some good pictures of the group on our walk together, and you can look at these by clicking on the thumbnails below. Once again, I have ordered the pictures left to right and top to bottom in the order we took them along our walk.


When our walk around the building was done, so was our visit to the Kimbell- save for a stop back in the Kahn building where Prudence, Nancy and I spent some time in the Impressionist exhibit where, sadly, photography was not allowed. The pictures were quite worth seeing, though; many of them were on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago where I had seen them before.

We had dinner back by Nancy's house at one of her favorite places, and it was a nice end to an enjoyable day.



December 25, 2013: Christmas
December 18, 2013: ICE! at the Gaylord Texan Hotel
Return to the Index for 2013