Between hurricane preparations and pandemic delays, completing the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) took a few weeks longer than planned. But the imposing new structure is opening on Saturday, November 21, and you’re going to want to visit.
This sweeping, translucent building, with its striking glass tubes and concave curves, is itself a work of art. Designed by Stephen Holl Architects to house the museum’s 20th- and 21st-century collection, the Kinder building has three floors and more than 100,000 square feet of exhibition space, plus a 215-seat theater, a restaurant, a cafe, and a soaring atrium. Its new galleries increase the museum’s overall exhibition space by nearly 75 percent. The campus also boasts new buildings that house an art conservation center and the Glassell School of Art.
Surrounding the new building are seven gardens and six reflecting pools by landscape designer Deborah Nivens—all part of the $385 million redevelopment program that MFAH has been working on since 2012.
“The Kinder building completes our campus,” says openly gay MFAH Director Gary Tinterow. “It creates a permanent home for our until-now rarely seen international collections of modern and contemporary art, with about 1,000 works in the inaugural installations. It gives Houston a 14-acre pedestrian-friendly expanse of great architecture, public art, and public plazas.
“MFAH is now the fourth-largest encyclopedic museum in the United States, by measure of display space,” Tinterow says. “Personally, I am thrilled to have been able to contribute to such a remarkable new destination for Houston, and I’m overwhelmed by the support from the philanthropic community here.”
A series of major site-specific commissioned artworks are also being inaugurated along with the Kinder Building. They will serve as portals connecting the new structure with the rest of the Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus. Located at strategic points, the works are designed to mark moments of transition and activate the public spaces. These works of art were commissioned from a roster of renowned international artists.
As for the Kinder building’s initial exhibitions, the third-floor galleries will feature five installations of art from 1960 to the present. The Collectivity exhibit explores the use of materials and techniques to create a community. Color into Light showcases work by artists celebrated for their studies in color dynamics. Line into Space examines how artists explore the line in multiple dimensions. And finally, Border, Mapping, Witness considers maps and borders in geographic, social, and political terms.
Tinterow is thrilled with all of these contemporary exhibits, but Gyula Kosice’s Hydrospatial City in the Color into Light exhibit stands out in his mind. “It’s a glowing environment of about two dozen suspended plastic pods enclosing miniature figures that Kosice, who was a Czech-born Argentine artist, spent two decades creating from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s. It was his own utopian vision of space architecture.”
If you do decide to visit the remarkable new MFAH campus, be aware that the museum has new hours and COVID-19 protocols. Requirements include face masks and social distancing, and reserving advance tickets for timed admission is recommended. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the museum’s website at mfah.org.
Tinterow also notes that the amazing Hockney-Van Gogh exhibit is coming to the MFAH in February. “We are the only American museum to present this exhibition, organized originally by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.” It will examine the common ground between the British artist David Hockney, born in 1937, and the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, who lived from 1853 to 1890. It opens February 21 in the Audrey Jones Beck Building.
For more information on the MFAH’s Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, visit mfah.org.