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The Modern Continues to Connect Communities with Art

The Fort Worth institution welcomes people from all walks of life

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, located in the heart of the Cultural District, is an imposing yet delicate building designed by renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Surrounded by outdoor sculptures, ponds, and grassy lawns, you know you’re entering a special place as you walk into the high-ceilinged galleries filled with light. 

Founded by 25 women in 1892, Texas’ oldest museum focuses on post-1940s contemporary and modern art. “We have abstract expressionists from New York and contemporary living artists. We continue to collect and acquire work internationally in all mediums and have been working on balancing out our collection to showcase historically underrepresented groups,” says Director of Communications Kendal Smith Lake. 

Whether it’s for a special exhibition or permanent residence in the museum, the curatorial department spends hours researching, visiting galleries, working with world-famous institutions like the Whitney Museum of American Art, and requesting loans from private collectors to put together a collection the curators feel is important to show. “The work displayed and collected is a product of years of exhibition and program planning,” says assistant curator Clare Milliken.

Strolling through The Modern, your first instinct will be to head directly to the permanent collection, where you’ll find works by Francis Bacon, Dallas native David Bates, Lorna Simpson, Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollack, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. The museum also showcases local talent like The Fort Worth School, a modern art movement based in Cow Town. Artwork is sometimes installed chronologically and sometimes thematically, but always with the utmost thought and care to the museum’s mission to show a preeminent selection of contemporary and modern art. 

Your next chance to experience a fresh take on this thoughtful planning is coming soon. Inspired by the history of Surrealism in the Caribbean, Surrealism and Us: Caribbean and African Diasporic Artists since 1940 is running from March 10 - July 28, 2024, and it is the first intergenerational show dedicated to Caribbean and African diasporic art presented at the museum. According to Lake, this exhibition explores how Caribbean and Black artists interpreted a modernist movement. There are over 50 works of varying medium types: painting, drawing, installations, sculpture, and video. Expect to see works from artists like Benny Andrews, Suzanne Césaire, and Toni Morrison, to name a few. 

“Expanding the conversation on Surrealism in American and international art, this exhibition enriches the canon by highlighting Black and Caribbean artists’ engagements with the movement. This is one of the first shows of Caribbean artists in the region, and I am excited to share it with our audiences,” commented exhibition curator María Elena Ortiz.  

The Modern is a place for people from all walks of life. There’s free admission every Friday, and the museum is open until 8 pm. The reoccurring First Friday includes happy hour, light bites from the cafe's head chef, and a museum tour. On the first Sunday of every month, kids and adults can enjoy a drawing class, the museum’s film series—Magnolia at the Modern—shows poignant films on the weekend, and the outdoor sculpture garden and pond are an experience on their own. In March, families will want to check out ART Break, a special series during Spring Break week. From 11 am - 3 pm, kids ages 18 and under enjoy free admission, and there are stations throughout the museum where guests can chat with a community artist and work on a gallery project that focuses on various works. 

“We want our community to come and be themselves and experience art. We’re a place for people to learn. Not everyone will like everything, but we hope someone will connect with something and leave with inquisitiveness,” says Lake.

When asked what artwork people shouldn’t miss at The Modern, Lake has a few must-see works to share. For starters, Richard Sera’s Vortex, a 67-foot tall steel outside sculpture, is a gathering place for museum guests. “People sing and make music. The echo creates this audio that gets spread really far. It’s a cool participatory piece of art,” she says. Kind of Blue, by new-media and installation artist Jenny Holzer, is a blue LED light installation that creates an incredible reflection in the pond, and the sculpture titled A Ladder for Booker T. Washington, by Martin Puyear, is a community favorite, according to Lake.

Take a day to explore this important cultural institution right in your backyard. Open Tues-Sun, 10 am - 5 pm, general admission is $16, senior citizens are $12, students with ID are $10, and children ages 18 and under are free; Sunday admission is half-price, and Friday is free for all guests. 3200 Darnell St., Fort Worth, TX.