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This morning, New York City mayor Eric Adams declared 31 May to be Ellsworth Kelly Day, in honour of the legendary artist’s 100th birthday.
The centennial initiative, spearheaded by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, all of which boast examples of Kelly’s work in their own collections, will help cement the artist’s legacy as a pioneer both in abstraction and institutional philanthropy, an example of the expansive nature of his influence. Mayor Kirk Watson of Austin, Texas—home to his chapel-like structure Austin—also made the same declaration.
Kelly, who died in 2015, is revered as one of the most significant artists of his generation, having received the National Medal of the Arts from US president Barack Obama in 2012. He is best known for bright, slick, hard-edged abstractions that forever changed the landscape of post-war painting.
Kelly’s centennial is being celebrated in the form of concurrent events exhibitions across both the US and the world, including the Museum of Modern Art’s Ellsworth Kelly: A Centennial Celebration (until 11 June); the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, where Ellsworth Kelly at 100 is on view until 15 April 2024; Ellsworth Kelly Portrait Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago (until 23 October 2023); Shape, Ground, Shadow: Ellsworth Kelly Photographs, at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (until 14 January 2024); Ellsworth Kelly: Reflections on Water and Other Early Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (until 1 December) and Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture, an outdoor exhibition of the artist’s work at Lever House in Manhattan (until 1 May 2024).
Ahead of Kelly’s centennial celebration, the artist’s foundation and his partner Jack Shear gave grants amounting to $2.75m to 50 museums across the US and major gifts of his work.