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Blanton Museum of Art receives 76 new works from iconic American artist

Blanton Museum receives 76 new works from iconic American artist

Ellsworth Kelly, Romanesque Series, 1973–76
Ellsworth Kelly's Romanesque Series, 1973–76. Courtesy of the Blanton Museum of Art

As much as Austin likes to believe we're still a scrappy college town, often demurring to glamorous Dallas or Houston, our place on the national  — and international — stage is getting bigger. Especially when it comes to art.

Perhaps the best example of this metamorphosis occurred in January 2015, when Ellsworth Kelly selected the Blanton Museum of Art and the University of Texas as the site of his final work, Austin. The groundbreaking chapel, housed on the UT campus, helped the city gain the attention of the international art community.

Now, Austin is once again in that spotlight. On May 31, the Blanton announced the acquisition of an additional 76 works by Kelly. The prolific American artist died in December 2015, less than a year after his chapel was announced, and never got to see his work fully realized.

In many ways, it makes sense for this massive collection to come to the Blanton. Since opening in January 2018, Kelly's Austin has welcomed more than 171,000 visitors, garnered the attention of media outlets across the world, and has quickly become a must-hit tourist destination within the Capital City. These 76 pieces include "paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints spanning Kelly’s seven-decade career" and provide context for what eventually would become Austin.

"Not only do these works complement and enhance visitors’ understanding of Austin — now a cornerstone of the Blanton’s collection — but they also help to strengthen the museum’s role as a center for the study and appreciation of Kelly’s work,” says Blanton director Simone Wicha in a release.

The donors read like a who's-who of the art world, with the majority of works — 67 in total — coming from the late artist and his husband, Jack Shear. The remaining nine were donated by Austinites Jeanne Klein, Michael Klein, and David G. Booth; famed TV producer Douglas S. Cramer; and Jan Hendler and Howard Hendler.

"Since Austin’s opening in February 2018, the Blanton has been the epicenter of the Ellsworth Kelly universe," says Shear, who also serves as president of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. "It's been personally pleasing to see the Blanton’s focus on Kelly’s work and scholarship, and as a steward of his legacy, I'm happy to do what I can to sustain it."

Fans of Kelly's can learn more about the artist all year long during the museum's "Kelly &..." series, an informal-but-curated collection of lunchtime talks. And, later this summer, the Blanton will publish a hardcover book dedicated to Kelly's Austin, available for purchase in the gift shop.