Non-Western art given permanent home in Kimbell’s new Piano Pavilion

11/22/2013 6:00 AM

11/22/2013 10:05 AM

Many of the Kimbell artworks have found a new home in the Piano Pavilion. These are the pieces that were usually relegated to the downstairs entrance hall in the Kahn building — the Asian, African and pre-Columbian artworks.

“That downstairs space was used as a gallery, but it was a foyer and it had everybody tromping back and forth,” says Jennifer Casler Price, the Kimbell’s curator for Asian and non-Western art. “Everyone saw the pieces; I was thankful for that.” But it wasn’t ideal, she says.

Now Price has two almost-permanent homes for her charges. The African and pre-Columbian works are in the Piano Pavilion’s north gallery, and they will probably never move. The gallery has floor-to-ceiling windows along Camp Bowie Boulevard, so at night, when the gallery is lit and the screens are up, they make a dramatic window display.

The large Maya stela that was in the Kimbell cafe anchors one of the walls; along another are the pair of Maya censers. The stela was almost invisible in the cafe in the Kahn building, as it was the same color as the travertine walls.

Here, it stands out.

“Several people commented they didn’t realize we had that. Now it is reunited with its family, with other Maya material,” Price says. All of the African work and about two-thirds of the pre-Columbian pieces are on display, so Price will be able to rotate things to keep the galleries from becoming too static.

In the light-sensitive gallery on the Will Rogers side of the building, the Asian works have been installed. This low-ceilinged room with columns is unlike any of the other spaces.

Eric M. Lee, the Kimbell’s director, likens it to a temple. So it is perfectly appropriate that these works be placed in there, “as most of them were originally made for temples,” Price says. “Architecturally, this gallery is so distinct, it suits the material really well. It has a very meditative, contemplative feel to it.”

These Asian sculptures and scroll paintings may have to be moved from time to time when special exhibits or light-sensitive works, such as drawings and works on paper, need to be displayed. But for now, Price considers this part of her manifest destiny in the Piano Pavilion.

This gallery has two entrances and a window onto a light well, so it took some careful staging. Price said she believed she needed a major work at each entrance, and something in front of the window, something with a strong silhouette against the back-lit screen.

She found three candidates that hold their ground with great style and then swirled the other pieces around these anchors.

“This is the creme de la creme of the Asian collection,” she says.

It is only one-third of the Kimbell’s holdings in Asian art. To give the room the quiet, templelike quality that Lee wanted her to establish, she had to limit what would go on display. But it worked to her benefit.

“I’m so happy with this installation,” she says. “To me, everything is just great. Every piece, every placement, every sculpture is just perfect. I don’t want to move a thing.”

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