Worthy Art at the Kimbell Museum

  • Arts & Culture
  • 1972

Kay and Velma Kimbell were among Texas’s first major art collectors, and it all happened virtually by accident. They attended a 1935 exhibit of paintings at Fort Worth’s downtown library, and bought one of the works. The exhibit’s organizer, Bertram Newhouse of New York, told them Texas needed more great art, and that they should start collecting. They did. Kay was a bit of an Anglophile, so their initial purchases focused on eighteenth-century British art, but they quickly branched out.

When Kay died in 1964, the entire family fortune was given to the Kimbell Art Foundation, with instructions to create a first-class art museum in Fort Worth. The project was begun in 1966, beginning with the Kimbell’s own collection of some 350 items, ranging from antiquity to the present. Since the collection was so diverse, there was no question of focusing on a particular era or art form; the organizing criteria was simply that the collections must be of the “highest aesthetic quality.”

The building itself met that same criteria. Designed by Louis Kahn and completed in 1972, it won numerous awards and is admired for creating one of the fine interiors of the twentieth century. The museum expanded in 2013.

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