Before it had even been finished, someone had already compared it to the Chapelle du Saint-Marie du Rosaire, built by Henri Matisse between 1949 and 1951 in Provence, and to the Rothko Chapel in Houston, a place of worship open to all religions of the world that contains fourteen paintings by the American artist Mark Rothko.
And indeed, the comparison could be fitting: Austin is the most impressive work – and the first ever building made by the painter Ellsworth Kelly, one of the greatest exponents of American Abstract Expressionism and the current Hard Edge Painting. The building was designed shortly before his death in 2015, and completed in February 2018 thanks to a fundraising campaign launched by the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas.
Though “without religious intention” as Kelly pointed out, the building is dedicated to the joy of living and the beauty of life. Here one comes to meditate, to immerse in silence and to contemplate the playful light fractures created by coloured windows. Spanning an area of about 250 square meters, Austin is made of reinforced concrete and has been positioned inside the museum garden.
The opening of the building (February 18, 2018) was accompanied by the inauguration of the Form into Spirit exhibition: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, which contextualises the architectural work by telling the entire career of the artist.