There may be no greater reason for cultural travel now than the extraordinary new pavilion designed by Renzo Piano for the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The building plays a compliment in design and spirit to architect Louis Kahn's celebrated original structure, a modernist masterpiece of travertine and concrete, renowned for its deployment of natural light. Yet, the Piano Pavilion is its own distinct achievement. It sits on the lawn across from the Kahn and, like it, follows a tripartite plan, distinguished by an arrangement of bleached Douglas fir beams, transparent end walls, and galleries with a roof of fritted glass through which light imparts a singular luminous quality to exhibition spaces. For the next several weeks, much of the Kimbell's permanent collection—a veritable treasury of masterworks—is showcased in the Piano building.
Old Masters—from the adolescent Michelangelo's first-known painting to Caravaggio's compelling The Cardsharps to four monumental canvases on mythological subjects by the French Rococo painter François Boucher, set along an interior concrete wall so fine that it resembles nothing so much as a bluish alabaster—take pride of place in the largest of three galleries, while the museum's holdings of Asian, African, and pre-Columbian art are shown to best advantage in its other galleries.
Don't miss, the complementary exhibition “The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters from the Art Institute of Chicago” in the Kimbell's Kahn building, through February 16; and two landmark shows at the two other eminent museums in Fort Worth's cultural district: “Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy” at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, until January 12; and “México Inside Out: Themes in Art since 1990,” at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, through January 5.
Mario R. Mercado is arts editor at Travel + Leisure.