Ellsworth Kelly ‘Austin’ Opening Dinner
Saturday, February 10, 6 p.m.
The University of Texas — Blanton Museum of Art
Can we please get a round of applause for UT Distinguished Alumnus, Mickey Klein?
There is another Distinguished Alumnus with us tonight — the Governor of the state of Texas — Greg Abbott
It’s great to have a Longhorn in the Governor’s Mansion.
Governor Abbott doesn’t just bleed burnt orange more than any other governor. He bleeds it more than any other Texan. He even keeps a bronze Longhorn statue in his office at the Capitol. The Governor supports UT, because he understands that as the flagship university for Texas, we serve the entire state, and that we will do even more for Texans as we continue to strengthen our standing as one of the top public universities in the nation. Thank you, Governor Abbot for celebrating with us tonight, and thank you for your service to Texas.
Now, as President of UT, I don’t often ask for special treatment or favors. But, I’m not ashamed to admit, that a few weeks ago, I did use executive privilege … to get a sneak preview of ‘Austin.’
I had waited patiently during the two-year construction process, but last month, I hit the breaking point. I could wait no longer to see Ellsworth Kelly’s masterpiece. And I thank Simone Wicha, first, for letting me sneak in and look around, but most importantly, for her vision as Director of the Blanton, to bring this landmark installation by Ellsworth Kelly to the Forty Acres. The Blanton has flourished under Simone’s leadership. It is truly a world-class university art museum, and that has so much to do with her efforts and the hard work of her team. Let’s give Simone a round of applause.
Now, back to a few weeks ago … I remember walking up to ‘Austin,’ and marveling at the design. First, from a distance, then, up close. I got a sense of the way it fits into the landscape of our campus, yet stands apart. It’s an elegant and classical form, simple, graceful, and it generates a feeling of peace.
Everyone here knows so much about ‘Austin’ and the remarkable artist who created it. But I also thought about how many UT students and visitors to ‘Austin’ might not know exactly what it is … at first.
Some may not know about one of the most brilliant artists of the 20th century — or any century. They won’t know about the Blanton’s close relationship with Jack Shear, who was Ellsworth’s husband and is the director of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. They won’t know about the generous benefactors, supporters, builders, artists, and the curators of the Blanton who brought Ellsworth’s vision to life.
They’ll just experience the art. When they are inside ‘Austin’ on a sunny day, they will see the light refracting through the spectral colors of the windows. They’ll see the totem and the stunning marble panels, and it’s unlike anything they have experienced before. It’s calming, compelling, and draws you into it like a magnet.
And there is a poetry to that. It speaks to the great power of Ellsworth Kelly’s art. It is truly for everyone. And it’s now a part of The University of Texas forever. We are so fortunate.
Kelly’s ‘Austin’ will motivate every one of our students, it will be part of their world-class education on the Forty Acres. It will be visited by art lovers from every corner of the globe. It is accessible art for every person, to embrace and draw inspiration from.
And so tonight, we celebrate the opening of the most beautiful space we’ve ever had. It started as a thought, in the mind of Ellsworth Kelly, around 60 years ago. Now it’s here, in three dimensions, for each one of us to discover anew.
So, I want to thank you all for being here tonight to celebrate this occasion. Thank you to former UT President Bill Powers for his crucial role in approving this project and making it possible.
Thank you to David Booth, who chaired this gala, as well as all of the city chairs, and the entire Blanton team who put this fabulous evening together.
And I’d like to thank all of the Blanton Museum National Leadership Board members for helping put The University of Texas at the forefront in the arts and arts education. Could all members of the board, past and present, please stand and be recognized?
Now, please enjoy your dinner. The program will continue later, including remarks from Simone.