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InsIde the MuseuM of fIne Arts, houston's BrAve new KInder BuIldIng By Catherine D. anspon D uring my time at this desk, the texas museum world has added many crown jewels. For me, the opening of the Museum of Fine arts, houston Beck Building 20 years ago last spring remains a high point. the Beck changed the paradigm of a museum that, under the nearly 30-year directorship of the late peter Marzio, grew to become one of america's great encyclopedic collecting institutions. now, less than a generation later, a transformative third museum building arrives at the MFah, completing the susan and Fayez s. sarofim Campus. as you read these pages, the nancy and rich Kinder Building, designed by steven holl architects, has just been unveiled, staking the MFah's claim to being the most significant museum in the south and the West, while capping the largest cultural project in north america. While not a household name like Frank Gehry or renzo piano, steven holl falls into the starchitect category for his bold ability to sculpt space and transform concrete. For the Kinder, holl has a big playing field — 183,528 square feet — and delivers a museum building that strides into the new decade with swagger and beauty. inside, materials are carefully considered and dialogue with the heroic volumes of the space to create moments of intimacy, warming up the chilly white concrete. one of the defining aha features that inspires awe is its grand three-story atrium, graced by Calder's 1949 International Mobile (which seems designed for this particular placement). in the breathtaking new second-floor galleries, the museum's jaunty Léger and Matisse fireplace murals stand out, as does a tiny Forrest Bess, which holds its own amidst canonical works from europe and the americas — not to mention the Latin american and Latino art. the MFah's rich holdings of Brazilian constructivism and works by Uruguayan master Joaquín torres- García and his school of the south reveal a new world order. there's also a gallery devoted to decorative arts, craft, and design, including the helen Williams Drutt Collection of studio jewelry, and inventive ceramics. the photography galleries, heralded by a striking Jason salavon wallpaper commission, are another calling card; the MFah photography holdings are among the top 10 in the world. in an unexpected, engaging presentation, south african photographer Zanele Muholi's self-portrait as photo mural and a cache of robert Frank works from The Americans speak to our time. the subterranean universe, which is all about transformation, features two thrilling tunnels bearing artworks, both light based. Venezuelan-born Carlos Cruz-Diez, in one of his final creations before his passing in 2019, forges an immersive environment of colored light to blaze a pathway to connect the Kinder with the Law Building. the second tunnel, leading to the Glassell school, is the province of international scandinavian talent olafur eliasson. Without giving too much away, we'll say the viewer will be in for some optical razzle-dazzle and become part of the artwork. the biggest name among the Kinder commissions is Chinese artist and activist ai Weiwei. his bamboo, aluminum, silk, and mirrored dragon reigns over the ceiling adjoining the eliasson tunnel towards the Glassell. Finally, the african continent is represented in this underground kingdom by a work at the gateway to the Cruz-Diez tunnel. Ghana-born, nigeria-based el anatsui's sinuous metallic tapestry formed from wrappers salvaged from liquor bottles is a grand gesture to globalism. For more seminal artworks contained within the new Kinder, see our extended feature on A once-In-A-generAtIon MuseuM Rises in Texas epIc ArchItecture + MInd-BlowIng Art: Steven Holl Architects' Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston © RichaRd BaRnes, couRtesy MFah 62

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