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A Trip to MFAH’s New Kinder Building

Haley Kurisky
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Carlos Cruz-Diez’s color tunnel

Yours truly pictured (in my mask!) in Carlos Cruz-Diez’s color tunnel running underneath Bissonnet. The colors are beautiful, and very bright! You’ll feel like you’re in a spaceship.

Houston has always been an art Mecca; our fabulous Museum of Fine Arts is world-renowned, having benefited from many generous art-loving benefactors around Houston over the years. The new Nancy and Rich Kinder building, which we’ve all impatiently been waiting for for years, is now up and running. 

Even the entryway from the parking garage is engaging. Meant to look like a dragon, the piece is even bigger than it seems, and almost comes to life with the orange light tunnel in the background.

The new building is an 8-year project in the making. It was designed by Steven Holl Architects. In addition to gallery space, the building hosts a cafe, theater, and restaurant. According to the architects, the ceiling of Kinder is meant to look like a Texas sky, big clouds and all. 

The orange-lit hallway leading from the parking garage to the Kinder building is so saturated with color, your eyes will take a second to adjust.

The best place to park if you want a look at the new building is in the garage near the Glassell School-- enter off of Montrose. From there, the elevator will take you to a beautiful orange rhombus-lit tunnel. The tunnel leads to a room where you can buy your entry tickets. The walls are covered with gold tapestries, making the walls appear gold-plated. Buy your tickets there and try to resist wandering through the Carlos Cruz-Diez rainbow tunnel--titled “Cromosaturacion”--that connects the Kinder building to the rest of the museum across the street. 

The foyer of the Kinder building where I bought my tickets was covered head to toe with gold tapestries. In the background, you can see the Cruz-Diez color tunnel leading to the original MFAH buildings across the street. 

The interior of Kinder is reminiscent of the Guggenheim in New York City: White walls, inclined ramps and hidden stairs up to the next level, and showstopping art on the inner walls. Everywhere you look there is a different color, texture, or feature. The Kinder building is filled with the museum’s international collections of modern and contemporary art. Don’t expect dark classical paintings. Expect bright, colorful works with intricate design elements - chairs, sculptures, fabric, wood, neon lights, glass, and more. New pieces are next to Picassos. It is almost overwhelming, so go slowly and make sure you take it all in. 

After walking up the stairs from the gold tapestry foyer where you bought your tickets, you’ll find the Guggenheim-esque center of Kinder. An intricate mobile hangs from the ceiling, taking up the blank space in the building.

Famous, “well-known” pieces hang innocently next to newer, lesser-known pieces. Pieces that look like they would not be grouped together appear in the same room. Think: a clear pink glass piece that looks like a giant contact lens, sitting right next to a massive, black, shroud-looking piece, standing ten feet tall in the middle of the room. Next to those, a wall of portraits. Your eye will always be moving and will never be bored. Kinder is a visual smorgasbord of beautiful art. 

Every young Houstonian’s favorite installation at MFAH is the James Turrell tunnel that crosses Main Street. Did you know there’s another Turrell piece at nearby Rice University? It’s called the Skyspace, and features a similar vibe and colors as the tunnel. 

In checking out the new building, don’t forget about the rest of the museum across the street. After fully checking out what Kinder has to offer, use the rainbow Cruz-Diez tunnel to safely cross the street into the original MFAH buildings. While in the main building, I saw the soon-to-expire “Glory of Spain” exhibit. Complete with artifacts and paintings showcasing Spain’s magnificent history, the exhibit features works from notable Spanish artists like El Greco, Goya, and Velasquez. It is reminiscent of pieces you would see at the Prado museum in Madrid, but with modern elements throughout. 

A short walk through everyone’s favorite walkway in Houston (the James Turrell tunnel) brings you to the other main MFAH building. Take a second to go upstairs and see some of the more classic pieces, including older Spanish, Italian, and French artists. I took pictures of some of my favorites. This is a great area to socially distance yourself from others-- it was pretty empty, and the rooms are huge! 

This massive rainbow piece was one of the most eye-catching on the outer walls going towards the foyer of the Kinder building.

Overall, my trip to Kinder was nothing short of superb. The new building features tons of picture-worthy spots, and should be exciting for new art fanatics, as well as long-time art lovers.

Another one of my favorite pieces within Kinder- if you look closely, you’ll see me (albeit upside-down)! 

This new building is something all Houstonians should be excited about. Although we all know Houston’s art scene is great, the Kinder building puts Houston on the map as an art haven. You may be annoyed at the presence of bloggers or Instagrammers using the space as their photo backdrop, but what easier way is there to share the art love? Instagrammable spaces like those featured in Kinder makes the space that much more accessible to those who may be intimidated. The “bean,” or Cloudspace, as it’s more formally known, was just the beginning. How lucky are we to have one of the best art museums in the country right in our backyard? 

If you go visit, don’t forget your masks. Temperature checks are expected at all entrances to the museum, and social distancing is encouraged throughout the museum. 

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