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MFAH's Kinder Building Is Houston Museum District's Newest Star

By Kiley Faulkner | January 11, 2021 | Lifestyle

Concluding a decadelong expansion project, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has unveiled its piece de resistance: the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. The facility, which houses the MFAH’s modern and contemporary art collections, is H-Town’s latest claim to architectural fame.

mfah.jpgThe west facade of the Kinder Building, which was designed by lauded architect Steven Holl

While its interior contents are equally noteworthy, the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building’s exquisite exterior is reason enough to plan a visit. Designed by famed New York architect Steven Holl, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s newest addition is a trapezoidal concrete structure clad in vertical glass tubes. The facility spans 237,000 square feet and comprises a 215-seat theater, seven vertical gardens, five reflecting pools and an expansive underground parking lot. The redevelopment of the MFAH’s 14-acre Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus, which encompasses the Kinder Building along with two other gallery buildings, an art school, an art conservation center and a sculpture garden, has raised more than $470 million to date—making it the largest cultural construction project in North America over the last 10 years.

MarkBradford.jpgMark Bradford, “Circa 1992” (mixed media mounted on canvas)

The building was conceived to host the first comprehensive, long-term installation of the MFAH’s modern and contemporary art collections. At street level, a black-box gallery is devoted to immersive installations, while a windowed gallery facing Main Street features a monumental installation by Brazilian artist Tunga. Kinetic sculptures by Jean Tinguely sit in an adjacent gallery, and an installation of suspended lights by Spencer Finch hangs in the cafe.

HydraSummer1990.jpgBrice Marden, “Hydra, Summer 1990, I of V” (1990, ink, gouache and watercolor on wove paper)

The second-floor galleries are organized by curatorial department, with individual suites dedicated to the history of photography; decorative arts, craft and design; prints and drawings; European and American 20th century painting and sculpture; and Latin American modernism. The third-floor galleries feature thematic exhibitions, with artworks from the 1960s onward. The five inaugural shows are Collectivity, highlighting works that activate a sense of community; Color Into Light, showcasing the dynamic role of color in the work of artists in the United States, Latin America and Europe; LOL!, with works that use humor as a strategy; Border, Mapping, Witness, which considers maps and borders in geographic, social and political terms; and Line Into Space, examining how artists have explored lines in multiple dimensions and media.

atrium.jpgAlexander Calder, “International Mobile” (1949, sheet aluminum, rods and wire)

The Kinder Building’s first installations are accompanied by eight major site-specific commissioned works. Commissioned artists are El Anatsui, Byung Hoon Choi, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Ólafur Elíasson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Cristina Iglesias, Jason Salavon and Ai Weiwei. The pieces join additional recent acquisitions, including works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Glenn Ligon, Martin Puryear, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Doris Salcedo and Kara Walker. 5500 Main St.,


Photography by: from top, photos: ©Richard Barnes, courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; ©Mark Bradford, courtesy of Mark Bradford and Hauser & Wirth; ©2020 Brice Marden/Artists Rights Society, New York; ©Richard Barnes, courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston