See Houston: Kinder Building at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Nancy and Rich Kinder Building on the corner of Bissonnet and Main Street | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365 Houston

Take in the expansive collection of modern and contemporary art on display at the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

At the site where two of Houston’s iconic roadways meet—that is, Montrose Boulevard and Main Street—there is a wedge of land that staked its claim as the center of the city’s cultural arts way back in 1924. This is where the neo-classical facade of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston began welcoming visitors to browse its early collection of antiquities and European arts.

Nearly a century later, the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building marks yet another ample addition for the campus and one of the most expansive extensions to Houston’s world-class arts scene to date.

Wrapped in translucent glass tubing, the three-story structure adds another 100,000 square feet of exhibition space (double the capacity of New York City’s famed Guggenheim Museum) and brings the 14-acre MFAH campus closer in size to the museum’s cousins, like the Art Institute of Chicago.

Crucially, the addition of the Kinder provides a missing puzzle piece of connectivity to the campus. Two stunning tunnel experiences provide pedestrian pathways that completely eliminate interaction with the bustling traffic along Bissonnet and Binz Streets above. And while new underground garages help fulfill the car-centric needs of the city, the campus’ proximity to the Metro Rail Red Line caters to anyone who would love to visit without getting behind the wheel.

Top it off with the addition of the Lynn Wyatt Theater, a companion to the Law Building’s Brown Theater, and the Kinder Building has instantly cemented itself as a fixture of the Houston arts scene.

Line & Space

The overlooking view from the third floor of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365 Houston

Two of the essential elements of art, line and space, are on full display in the architecture itself as you move through the Kinder. Gently sloping pathways, the slants of staircases, and overlapping ceiling slabs that channel natural light all provide angles that jut in seemingly every direction and offer ever-changing perspectives as you cycle around each floor.

From the generously sized elevators to the extra wide walkways and the space that wraps around the display of artwork, Kinder also provides a roomy experience that’s been designed from the ground up—a convenient feature for a building that opened in the age of social distancing.

We recommend that you start your art walk by taking the elevator to the top floor and winding your way down. Along the way, you may find that pathways sometimes branch in multiple directions, allowing visitors a chance to organically explore the museum in their own way. You’ll also catch glimpses of galleries and alluring objects tucked away on other floors that help guide you through the sights.

A Brief Tour Around the Kinder

The tunnel designed by Carlos Cruz-Diez that connects Kinder and Law Buildings | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365 Houston

Atop the Kinder building, the third floor rewards repeat visits with galleries and themed exhibitions that will rotate out over time. Works on display here will have a longer shelf life than the touring exhibitions that grab headlines, but will still tackle a wide range of themes like topical issues, artistic experimentation, and a specific form or medium.

The cornerstone of the Kinder’s collection stretches across the second floor, offering the public a chance to delve into the impressive holdings of MFAH’s modern and contemporary art, as well as Latin American works, photography, decorative arts, and works on paper.

Visitors can take a journey through Hélio Oiticica’s vibrant shapes of color, Joaquín Torres-García’s geometric works that anticipated the age of modernism, the innovative designs of furniture and lighting from Italian minds, and early studies on paper from well-known artists like Jackson Pollock, Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse.

Works by Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko & Robert Rauschenberg on display on the second floor | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365 Houston

The modern and contemporary gallery, greatly expanded from its previous home at the Beck Building, features much of the masters in American and European arts that you’d expect; Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and Willem de Kooning, to name a few. But you’ll also find the intimate portraiture of Alice Neel, Helen Frankenthaler’s abstract forms of color that rip across the canvas, and the signature illustrations of the Harlem Renaissance by Aaron Douglas.

Finally on the ground floor, visitors can peer through a couple galleries of rotating works that are lit up by massive windows facing Main Street. Conversely, a dark corridor underneath the staircase offers a chance to immerse yourself within an illuminating work of James Turrell, the playfully transparent domes of Gyula Kosice, and a Yayoi Kusama work slated to open in post-pandemic times.

If you’ve managed to peep everything throughout the three floors of the Kinder (don’t forget the tunnel experiences from Carlos Cruz-Diez and Ólafur Elíasson, plus monumental artwork from Ai Weiwei and El Anatsui), then you may have worked up an appetite. Here, the Kinder Building ensures that you leave satisfied with the casual counter-service eatery of Cafe Leonelli on the first floor, or the exceptional upscale experience at the nearby Le Jardinier.

The overlapping lines of the upper floors of the Kinder Building | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365 Houston

Nancy & Rich Kinder Building at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

  • Location: 5500 Main Street, Houston, TX 77004
  • Admission: General admission is $19; $16 for ages 65 and up; $12 for students and ages 13 to 18; free for ages 12 and under. Admission is free for all on Thursdays.
  • Parking: Garage entrances are located along Binz Street (Beck Garage); Main Street (Kinder Garage); and Montrose Boulevard (Glassell Garage). Limited street parking is available in surrounding area. Metro Rail stops located along Main Street and Fannin Street.
  • Hours:
    • Wednesday: 11am to 5pm
    • Thursday: 11am to 9pm
    • Friday & Saturday: 11am to 6pm
    • Sunday: 12:30pm to 6pm
    • Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Learn more about the Kinder Building at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Artwork by El Anatsui wraps around the tunnel to the Law building | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365 Houston

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A longtime Houstonian, Justin Jerkins keeps an eye out for all sorts of happenings in H-Town, including breweries, sports, concerts, must-see destinations and much more while serving as Editor-in-Chief of 365 Things to Do in Houston.