‘Austin’ in Austin: Blanton installation utilizes sunlight to reveal city’s core

Crowds gathered at the University of Texas on Sunday, Feb. 18 as The Blanton Museum of Art held the grand opening of “Austin,” a 2,715-square-foot limestone building designed by the late Ellsworth Kelly. Fittingly, the piece is named after the lively city it resides in.

Kelly, a New York-based artist, gave the concept of “Austin” to the Blanton in 2015, and assembly began only two months before his death. Though he had no ties to the city, Kelly wanted to put his piece in Austin because of our sunny Texas skies. Kelly was a master of geometric shape, color and minimalism; his last piece completely embodies each of these ideas.

Dubbed a “temple of light” by the New York Times, “Austin” features colored glass windows towards the top of each wall which allow light to shine through and illuminate the structure with vibrant, rainbow shades. With white walls and black and white marble panels, the piece remains minimal, the windows providing the only color in the building.

Opening day brought in all sorts of people. Tons of parents were there accompanying their kids, while some lone rangers (like myself) decided to check it out solo. Though the range of visitors varied, everyone from toddlers to senior citizens expressed similar levels of wonder when admiring the incredible structure. It’s difficult not to be in awe of a work of art that you’re able to stand inside of and become fully immersed in.

Besides seeing “Austin” there were quite a few things to do at the Blanton. As people streamed out of the building, they could visit the gift shop or cafe, sign the guest book, go inside the museum itself or just lounge outside. With a view of the Capital at one direction and Kelly’s temple at the other, museum-goers were sandwiched between the incredible views of two Austins. What’s not to love?

As I signed the guest book, I spoke to some volunteers for the event who told me that inside the Blanton was a small replica of “Austin.” Sure enough, I found the tiny version of the building I had just been wandering inside. Encased in glass, the mini “Austin” stood next to sample pieces of the colored glass and granite that had been used in Kelly’s piece.

My visit to the Blanton was magical, and being able to see the raw materials and concept of “Austin” made me feel even closer than I already did to the piece. I highly recommend taking a trip to the UT campus to check it out.