Magnum Opus Ellsworth Kelly's Austin   |   Austin, Texas   |   2,715 SF

The Blanton Museum of Art has acquired what could come to be known as one of the great modern masterpieces. Originally conceptualized in 1986, but never built, Ellsworth Kelly’s first and only building, Austin, will finally take shape on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. Overland, through the work with artist James Turrell on The Color Inside, was brought on to realize the artist’s master work. The project has become particularly meaningful for many with Kelly’s passing in 2015, as it will now also be Kelly’s final work.

Artist
Ellsworth Kelly died at the age of 92, before the completion of the chapel. He left behind a body of work that includes masterpieces in numerous contemporary movements, from Hard-edge painting to Color Field and many others. He was an artist who defied any classification except for master, and this final work conveys an appropriate reverence and encourages reflection for those who experience it.
Art
Compared by many to the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Austin is intended to be a contemplative space for spiritual and secular people alike. It calls on the power of art, abstraction, and light to touch the human soul. Whether you are moved or quieted, Kelly’s own self-effacing spirit lives on in the chapel, taking visitors on a journey beyond themselves and into a place of transcendence.
Creation
Kelly had vision for the building in intricate detail. As such, getting inside the mind of the artist was the primary challenge for the team—taking Kelly’s vision and turning it into a constructable design. Humble materials—stone, plaster, steel, and glass—came to life in the mind of Kelly, who was inspired by the Romanesque structures he encountered while an art student in Paris.

Three of the chapel’s vaulted arms draw the gaze up to stained glass installations, creating a dynamic play of color and light as the sun moves throughout the day. The fourth arm of the building houses a towering redwood totem. Fourteen black-and-white stone reliefs constructed of marble quarried from Carrara, Italy—the same quarry used for Michelangelo’s Pietà—hang on the walls. Upon completion, Austin will be a destination art piece, allowing visitors to see the world through the eyes of a great artist.

Publications
  • Architectural Record, “On the Boards,” March 2015
  • Architects’ Newspaper, “Famed Artist to Bring Color-Filled Chapel to UT Austin,” March 2015
  • New York Times, “Texas Museum to Build Ellsworth Kelly Design,” February 2015
  • Texas Architect, “Paperwork,” May/June 2015
  • Art Forum, “Blanton Museum of Art Will Construct Ellsworth Kelly Design,” February 2015
  • Austin Culture Map, “Blanton Museum Acquires One-of-a-Kind Ellsworth Kelly Installation for Permanent Collection,” February 2015
  • Phaidon, “Take a Look Inside Ellswork Kelly’s New ‘Chapel,'” February 2015